In the early 1980s, Betsy worked at different public libraries in New Jersey that offered programs for parents with infants. She ran programs for parents with babies from birth to 24 months old, for two year olds, and for 3-5 year olds.
In 1986, she moved to Israel, and began working part-time at a library for children’s picture book illustration at the Israel Museum’s Ruth Youth Wing in Jerusalem. She also ran book-based programs for young children and parents at “Ann’s House”, a early childhood programming center for English-speakers in Jerusalem.
In the late 1980s, Betsy took her son to a series of “Your Baby Needs Music” classes run by Barbara Cass-Beggs. In her words:
“Twelve moms with their babies arrived on the first day of classes with Barbara, who was then in her 80s.
We were asked to take off our shoes and sit with our child looking at books until Barbara came around with a basket singing, “Books away, books away, put your books away today.” Her program began with a welcome song and numerous musical activities. All of the other babies sat contentedly on their mother’s laps, watching Barbara while allowing their mothers to move their arms and legs for the various activities. But my son, Alon, couldn’t keep still! He kept running all around the room and did not even seem to glance at Barbara.
I was embarrassed and did not know what to do. Should I run after Alon? Should I let him continue running? Should I take him into another room? Should I leave? Barbara immediately picked up on my discomfort and had a few words with me.
“It’s perfectly fine for Alon to run around,” she said. “Children this age don’t sit perfectly still. Just keep coming back and after a few sessions you will see how much he has learned.” With this type of reassurance, I sat in the circle with the other parents and continued doing the fingerplays although I was only occasionally joined by Alon.
The next two weeks were a repeat of the same thing. But the fourth week held a surprise; when Barbara started reciting a leaning rhyme, “Mother and Father and Uncle John,” Alon sat down on my lap and began leaning to one side even before the leaning part of the rhyme. When Barbara handed out bells and rang her bell “up high, down low, and in the middle” Alon rang his bell up high, down low, and in the middle right along with her. It was clear to me that he had absorbed everything going on around him; He knew what type of response was expected for each activity and was able to respond to both visual and verbal cues. From that class on, his attention span amazed me! He was able to sit on my lap for longer and longer periods, while watching and responding to Barbara. He loved going to class and so did I.”
At the end of the 10 sessions, Betsy studied with Barbara and become a certified instructor for “Your Baby Needs Music,” using the Listen, Like, Learn method. During the following year, she taught music classes for parents and infants in addition to working part-time at a local preschool for English speakers.
Eventually, due to Barbara’s influence, Betsy restructured her already popular library programs to create Mother Goose on the Loose. This program for parents with children from birth to age three, was offered in the Ruth Youth Wing on a weekly basis. Based on her experiences with Alon, Mother Goose on the Loose sessions always started by putting parents at ease with welcoming comments that stated,
“Children this age do not sit perfectly still. It is fine for them to wander around. However, please pretend there is an invisible circle around the flannel board. If your child enters the circle, then please come pick him up, and bring him back to your seat in the circle.”
In 1998, Mother Goose on the Loose was mentioned in the book, Toddle On Over by Robin Works Davis. In 1999, Betsy brought Mother Goose on the Loose to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland and weekly sessions began. Mother Goose on the Loose sessions were also used as the circle-time portion of the Family Place program there.
In 2004, Betsy was selected by Library Journal as one of the “Movers and Shakers: people who are shaping the future of libraries” largely due to the success of Mother Goose on the Loose. Based on that, the Neal-Shuman publishing company invited her to write a book on Mother Goose on the Loose. Library systems around the country then began requesting training workshops.
Workshop participants frequently asked if there were recordings of the Mother Goose on the Loose songs. Betsy’s friend, Rahel, had also studied with Barbara Cass-Beggs, was a certified instructor, and had permission from Barbara to record her songs. So, Betsy produced a number of CDs with Rahel including an instructional CD, a CD with 121 songs and rhymes, a CD in English and Spanish (with Evelio Mendez), and a CD with English and Hebrew.
Children’s librarian and founder of littlelit, Cen Campbell, suggested creating a Mother Goose on the Loose app in 2013. She introduced Betsy to app developers Dave and Mindy Douglas. Their company, Software Smoothie, designed the Felt Board – Mother Goose on the Loose app, which is available for free download to ipads.
While living in Baltimore, Betsy completed a doctorate in communications design at the University in Baltimore. In order to demonstrate a high degree of competence in at least one productive technology involving digital information system, Betsy was required to submit a major project to be evaluated by a committee of faculty and experts in the relevant field. This Website and the Online Construction Kit started as her doctoral project.
Betsy is currently expanding the online construction kit, a cloud-based tool for planning Mother Goose on the Loose programs, and hopes to make it available for free to everyone in 2016.