Noe Valley Voice March 1998

Kids' Picks: Clap Your Hands for the 'Lapsits'

By Michele Lynn

"The library and lapsits open the doors and windows for children to a lot more than books. Books lead them into the world of the imagination."

So says Rick Holtzer, a big fan of the weekly "lapsits" at the Noe Valley ­ Sally Brunn Library, located at 451 Jersey St. Holtzer, a Vicksburg Street resident, has been taking his 4-year-old son Shane to lapsits since he was 6 months old.

A score of other neighborhood parents and toddlers join the Holtzers each Wednesday evening from 7 to 7:15 p.m., as children's librarian Carol Small welcomes youngsters to the world of words.

David Ambruster, whose children Forrest, 6, and Claire, 2, are lapsit regulars, says they especially like the routine. "The order is the same every week. Carol always begins with [the song] If You're Happy and You Know It." This is followed by more songs, a book, and a lap bounce.

Toddlers perch on chairs or in Mom or Dad's lap, all eyes glued on Small. Okay, not all eyes -- these are toddlers, after all! But youngsters too curious to sit still are welcome to explore the baskets of books, puzzles, and stuffed animals scattered about the library's children's room. As Ambruster says, "Carol is really sweet and does a great job of making everyone feel comfortable, even while kids are pulling books off the shelves!"

Lapsits are designed for kids 1 to 3 years old, but Small welcomes babes in arms, as well as older children, to the program, now in its 14th year. "Lapsit isn't that much about reading. It's more about enjoying stories in the oral tradition," she says. "It's a helpful beginning for kids to find their way into books and to learn that words can be fun."

For lapsit alumni ages 3 to 5, Small leads a slightly more advanced reading circle-- preschool story time -- on Tuesday mornings from 10 to 10:20 a.m. She usually chooses three picture books to share with the group. "Preschool story time gives parents and kids a chance to enjoy books together," says Small. "It reinforces the positive values of sharing stories and pictures."

And what better place to share a book than at your cheerful neighborhood library? "It's a really happy place -- a great place for kids and parents to be together," says Ambruster.