It's Wednesday morning and the group of preschoolers gathered at the Davidson library are antsy. They wiggle and whine - and then suddenly stop.
A young woman enters the room, her lovely voice and lilting accent fill the room with a song, and the children are fascinated. Though she sings in Spanish, each toddler seems to understand not just the nature of her music but the joy she spreads.
The woman is Rubi Ramos-Carter and she has been entertaining the younger set in the Lake Norman area for years, teaching Spanish through songs, storytelling and puppetry. Originally from Puerto Rico, she moved to the United States 11 years ago and now lives in the Carrington Ridge neighborhood in Huntersville.
Describing herself as someone who "has always felt comfortable with children," Ramos-Carter began working in a very youth-driven industry: clowning. "My background as a clown taught me what kids like and respond to," she said.
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Once she arrived in the U.S., she says, she "wanted to create something by teaching Spanish in a basic way" by singing, dancing and using puppets.
She began Spanish story hours at the local libraries and at the Havana Social Club in Cornelius; she also teaches at Trinity Playschool on Beatties Ford Road. The story hours are mostly in Spanish, relying heavily on gestures and repetition as children memorize songs to help them understand the language.
"In the beginning, it was intimidating, but the whole experience has been so positive. I'm teaching them, but also learning from them.
"We have a great time, and I have so much fun with what I'm doing," she said.
Dance is an integral part of each lesson as well, and is one of Ramos-Carter's great loves. She teaches ballroom and tap with a Latin flair and incorporates dress-up themes so kids can use their imaginations.
The story hours have been successful not only in teaching children a second language but bringing together people of different cultures and backgrounds. Ramos-Cater loves watching parents carry on friendships made in the classes, opening each child's horizon.
"The adjective that pops to mind when you mention Rubi is 'high energy.' She is always vital, always 'on,' always fully engaged with the people around her," said Ellen Giduz, head librarian in Davidson and Cornelius.
Giduz said Ramos-Carter is delightfully warm and gets to know all the children."She's truly a community treasure."
Each hour always ends the same way - with hugs.
"Latin people hug. There's always a big line of kids, waiting for hugs," said Ramos-Carter.