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Sadie at Lapsit
By Amy Crawford

You know you're at the right place, Loussac Library's Lapsit, when you see Ollie the Otter waving at you. She's the puppet on Amy Johnson's arm. She's dark and fuzzy and asks your name, inviting you to wave back. Ollie welcomes you and tells you she'll be with you in a minute. Then you pass into a red velvet-floored theatre with a small scaffolding of stairs.

Sadie and Lisa are already there. Sadie sits on the bottom step, her feet crossed in a very adult-like manner. She watches Amy expectantly. Roxie, her friend and senior by eight months, sits beside her. She picks up a red laminated tag on a string that says "Sadie" and carefully puts it around Sadie's neck.

Sadie and Lisa study the Lapsit brochure before the session starts.
"Welcome to Lapsit!" says Amy-or Ollie. She hands out a yellow pamphlet to those who didn't yet get one. On the front it says "Today's theme: CATS AND DOGS!" The pamphlet is filled with suggestions of books to read about cats and dogs, and songs that range from "Hello Song" to "Five Little Kittens." Mother, fathers, babysitters, and children three years and younger are spread out on the carpet. Young curious faces watch Amy and one another.

"Are we ready to do the opening song?" she says.

And then she leads "Let's Get Started": "Hello children, Hello children, Hello children, I'm glad you came today." Ollie dances about on her arm, and the air is filled with big and small hands waving from side to side.

One of the songs, called "Little Puppies and Kittens," involves many hand motions that correlate with the words, like the well known "I'm a Little Teapot." Children follow along with Amy and Ollie, singing "One little, two little, three little kittens" as they hold up three fingers of their right hand. "We're napping in the sun" they sing, and bend their fingers down as if asleep. The puppies creep up on the kittens and then, at the end of the song, "One little, two little, three little kittens / Went scampering up a tall tree." Amy leads the group by waving her left-hand fingers into the air. The room is filled with voices and motion as children act out the stories on various levels.

Amy alternates songs with readings. She and Ollie hold up the books and read with animated voices, hands, feet, and faces. Since the books tend to be repetitive, often by the end the children can guess some of the words. Small gasps and giggles escape when this happens.

Afterwards the children crowd outside to have their hands stamped. Tables are set up with pages of outlined dogs and cats, and crayons for coloring. The tables are low so the kids can stand. Some wander around, some look at one another and grin, some hug. "Look what you have drawn!" says Amy to a dark-haired boy. He giggles and runs away, then wanders back shyly.

"Sadie runs around the house saying, ‘Amy, Amy, Amy, Amy,'" says Lisa. "She loves her … She loves Lapsit."

"It is my hope," says Lisa, "that through Sadie's Lapsit and the experience with Amy, she comes to associate the library and librarian with many fun and positive ideas. I want her to love libraries enough, love books enough, to turn to them when she is bored."

Sadie (far right) listens to Amy at Lapsit.
Somewhere behind a row of books there's a redheaded girl, perhaps two years old, standing alone crying. She's motionless save for her mouth, which is wide open. Her face is red and tears are running down it. She's all alone. Sadie, clutching Roxie's stuffed animal, disappears. "She's going to go stand in front of her and stare," laughs Lisa.

Sadie is small for her age, and thin. She walks cautiously up to the girl and does stand there, just watching her. The red-head stops crying and stares back. And then Sadie comes closer and you can hear her say, "Roxie's" as she offers the animal to the redhead. They stand close together like that for some time, both of them silent, both of them half-embracing the animal. You get the feeling they have discovered something pivotal--they may not be saying much, but they are certainly communicating. And then the red-head's mother returns. Sadie looks way up to her face and runs back to the drawing table.

"She was probably in time-out," Lisa laughs, "and Sadie just barged right in."

That's how it goes at Lapsit -- kids learn to make friends, communicate, and interact in group settings. And, of course, they are well on their way to becoming terrific readers.

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