Past and Present Souns!

Video of 3-year-olds sounding USA English letter-sounds. The sounds /o/ and /a/ are different for other English speaking populations.

From a Souns family, past and present:

We purchased a set of nylon souns years ago when our almost 7-year-old was about 1 year old! Our now 3-year-old is really interested in sounds, and we were wanting to show him the video of the kids saying the letter sounds – our 7-year-old LOVED watching it now and then.

Our 7-year-old now LOVES words and reading! We followed your recommendations, introducing one sound at a time when he was quite young. We saw him spotting sounds in the woodwork, so to speak – in our metal railings (O) and the S on Safeway, etc.
We haven’t really pushed reading at all, as we knew and trusted he would pick it up and love it more if he was truly interested in it. So, we strewed books and books and books around our home, read books for bedtime every night, and we read books almost every day for school (we homeschool).
We also use BOB books, which have been super rewarding. We just have a little reading nook and when I think of it, or he does, we sit and read a book or two together. I’m sure he could read longer books by now, but just hasn’t been super interested to yet. Though, he does read story books to his younger brother. 
[To add a] really cool bit of the story…

A couple months ago, the boys were playing in their room, and I was in my room next door. I overheard my older son teaching my younger son letter sounds. Following a beat, he was saying [the letter sounds], “/a/a/a/a/a/!” and “/o/o/o/o/o/!” I went into their room and discovered, that my older son had also made his own “Souns” out of pipe cleaners as a teaching tool! A while later, he had our little one recognizing those two letters and knowing their sounds.
Really, we have LOVED using SOUNS and were amazed by the ease with which he took to learning the sounds of the letters! Thanks for creating such a practical, simple tool for learning!
  • Thank you for sharing your Souns story! We are always happy to hear from Souns families, as their experiences may change a child’s learning somewhere in the world.  Brenda

And We Clapped!

sukeyclap10-13 copy

A fuzzy image often goes hand in hand with a dancing heart!

“I wanted to write clap,” she said with a big smile! My daughter was so excited to share with her dad that she wrote “clap” with her baby….”and we clapped!” she exclaimed, as she clapped the baby doll’s hands.

Intentional play! Have fun learning letter sounds first. Then, with Souns, building words phonetically – by listening to sounds spoken and finding the letters that represents the sounds –  comes much before sounding  words out phonetically. The steps for Souns are at Play to learn!

And Now: “some of her friends”


A Souns mom shares:

Today, my daughter saw a plastic bin used when we moved that listed my name and the city and state where we moved from.

 She started calling out Souns- (s), (m), (t), and (o) and pointing to each one on the bin as she said it.
She was smiling as she talking. The look on her face was as if she had just come across some of her friends.

It Is So Much Fun To KNOW!





From ongoing Linkedin discussion, well worth visiting.


To add to the discussion, I would like to share an experience this past week with a young child of three who has learned her letter-sounds as incidentally as she learned the doll or cup she was playing with at the time of this observation. She was role playing and was teaching her doll how to build the word “cup” by teaching her to listen to the letters in the word. I have had many say why teach a child letter sounds when they should be playing with dolls and cups and I find great frustration at not being able to explain successfully that the child was playing with knowledge she had of the world around her. She was so happy with what she “knew” about the world. She knows cups, dolls, and letter-sounds. After all, how many cups and baby dolls does a child see in a day compared to the number of printed letters. If the system could shift just a bit…with moms, dads, and caregivers sharing /m/ and /s/ as mmm and sss instead of letter-names offered at the same time as letter-sounds, we would find children building critical associations between what they heard people say and the letter-sounds that represent what their ears hear. I know I am the developer of the Souns program and this could be seen as a marketing moment…but I was a teacher of three decades before Souns and it is the child who led me to the logic of it. It is the child who wants real tools and if we could just offer the most useful tool – letter-sound associations – there would be no need for Souns or 70% of the intervention programs exhibited in conference halls. Rant over! 

Thank you for your ears and your hearts and your talents and your permission to share. Those little minds are ready and we are not ready for them.


Washing My Souns


Intentional play is the best way to learn. Email from a Souns mom:

We decided to wash the Souns with shaving cream and my daughter loved it.  I started off by sitting with her putting the shaving cream on a rubbermaid container top.  We both spent time drawing Souns in the shaving cream then I left her alone to play.  

She was quite fascinated with the shaving cream and she spent tons of time cleaning then organizing the Souns on the side of the tub.

I had to take some pictures of this wonderful experience!!  Thought you would like to see some. The pictures are in order to see the start and finish of her project.





Giggles, Letter-Sounds, Results!



It was such a treat to train preschools in Longview, Texas, today. The bright-minded teachers and the eager children made the experience exceptional.  We trained teachers for 12 classrooms and enjoyed the assistance of a few little ones to demonstrate the fun one can have learning letter-sounds.

Longview10-13Large smiles from those teachers and giggles from their little people painted a promising picture for early literacy in this community. Four children of different preschool ages and abilities played with Souns as teachers were trained to implement the program. Amazingly, play is the teacher. When learning is fun, the timing is right, and the hands are involved, school looks very different to a child.

And it works! One public preshcool in Longview began implementing Souns in eleven preschool classrooms this year in September. Today they ordered materials for three more classrooms. Results are clear – Souns is making a difference. Consider this letter that greeted me in an email today from a preschool using Souns in Colorado. It is from parents celebrating the reading ability of their Souns child who graduated from the preschool and is currently in kindergarten. We are grateful for such sharing.

I was told that you called the other day to follow up on the [Souns] reading program you did this past year.  I longview10-13-5wanted to send you the picture of [my daughter] as September’s super reader for her Kindergarten class.  I gave her teacher the letter you had given in regards to the Souns program.  She is reading now and just the other day read 5 books in a 15 minute period. When we do spelling words with our older son, our daughter is able to spell many of them just because she knows what sound the letter makes!   Thank you so much!!  The only downside is that she said she hasn’t learned anything new in Kindergarten yet!!  I suppose that is a problem that can easily be fixed!!

Build her library and stand back. A reader will always be learning. Once a child can read, you can’t take that away!




She Found An /e/!

Paisley’s Mom Shares!

Recently, Souns are Paisley’s favorite thing to play with.  At least a couple times every day she goes to where we have them sitting with her toys in her room and she gets the bag and brings them over to me and starts pulling them out.  Sometimes she identifies them as she is pulling them out, sometimes she just wants to look at them, and sometimes she looks for a specific one (usually p).  She especially likes them at night or in the morning.  A couple days ago she told me “Book.  Read.”  And I said, “Sure, Paisley, let’s put your diaper on and then you can go pick a book and we can read whichever one you want.”  She got excited about that and exclaimed “Read!  Cool!”  So we finished putting her diaper on and she went over to her books…and without even looking through the books to choose one she immediately grabbed the bag of Souns and brought it back over to me.  That surprised me.  I don’t know whether she had them in mind all along or whether she saw them next to her books and changed her mind when she went for a book.

I think one reason she especially likes to play with the Souns is because of an activity we sometimes do with them and the bag.  A while ago I started doing something where at night, if we hadn’t used the Souns during the day, I would pick them up (before we were using the bag, when they were just out) and we would say goodnight to them as we put them away back on her shelf.  And that was it.  If she was interested in the activity, I included her, and if she wasn’t interested I just quickly did it myself so that she saw one association for each sound/letter pair for that day, in 10 or 15 seconds.  It was a quick activity.

Now that we are using the bag to contain her Souns, the activity is more fun for her because there is the fun put-things-in-pull-them-out element. We dump all of the Souns out on the bed.  I orient them properly so that she can see them and they are facing the correct way, and then in a random order I ask her to put them back in the bag, and we say goodbye (or good night) to each of them.  “Paisley, will you put the /s/ in the bag?  Bye, /s/, we’ll see you next time!  Look, the /s/ is ssstuck on the edge of the bag.  /s/ likes to get ssstuck when you put him back in the bag!  Can you put the /t/ in the bag?  Bye, /t/, we’ll see you soon!” etc.  She loves that game.  

Paisley often notices letters that she knows on things.  She didn’t sleep much on a recent flight so she had a little burst of energy and was walking around [the airport] while we waited for our luggage. Then she started saying “e” “e” “e” so I pulled out the camera to ask her about it.  (The end is a little dramatic, but don’t worry, she was actually fine, no tears or bumps.)She even started waving to it! 

Observe! Your Child Is Your Teacher.


With the best of intentions, our timing and our direction are off! We are missing the most sensitive period in a child’s life to teach the fundamental tools of writing and reading if we do not engage between 0-5 with letter-sound associations. Lower-case letters and the most common sound for each letter is the simplest tool box leading to literacy.

Letter sounds taught kinesthetically with clay, cookie dough, or Souns, using only lower-case letters is so simple and logical. Engaged hands feed developing brains, say the directions that come with this little package called “child.”  Watch a child play, touch, manipulate, explore…all words reflecting engagement with the world. Digging, stacking, building, lifting, carrying – these are the efforts and endless work of the child acclimating to the world around him or her. As adults, we are so driven to teach; yet, if we paused and observed, we would understand ourselves to be the learners. Children know more about how they learn best than we do; but, too often we are not watching.

Today, at our Souns early literacy workshop, we took the time to watch. The images show you what we saw: stacking, matching, lining up, sorting – all the while learning letter sounds. Why not? They learn shoe much before they can put one on. They learn bath, well before they can run their own. Similarly, they can learn /o/m/s/t/ and on through the letter sounds of our alphabet. They are just objects being labeled, the same as a cup or a triangle. If we can keep it simple, they will learn. Look at those little hands and the activity we observed this morning. Enjoy your child. Observe and learn.


Perhaps We Have It All Backwards


     A preschooler building a word by listening to the sounds in it.

This past week I was surrounded by incredible people – parents, teachers, administrators, and friends – all grappling with the huge need to better prepare preschool children for success in school. One administrator’s comment, “Our kids are well prepared for kindergarten, except they do not know their letter-sounds!” gives critical direction for the litter-strewn path to reading and writing. Our culture insists on prioritizing the 26 letter names, of which only 5 are used for reading and writing. On the other hand, all 26 letter- sound associations are directly linked to reading and writing. Why do we have it backwards?

Monsters – marketing, fear of failing our children, crippling schedules, and rigid curriculum – invade every discussion, home, and classroom. The front line of education, reading and writing, has been engulfed in a dense, blinding, consuming fog. We can’t see the hand in front of us! We can only hear the shouting voices from every direction. Which do we follow?  Which voices are serving our children?  Which are serving political or financial agendas? The child waits, holding on with complete faith as we scramble to find our footing for the next step.

Such a cacophony can “blind” us to the obvious?  Perhaps we should not be leading the child! Perhaps the child should be leading us! Children are the experts about how they learn best. Research confirms how rapidly the brain is developing between 0-5 years of age. The young child is uniquely programmed for language learning, and, if introduced incrementally, reading and writing fits comfortably and naturally along side language learning. In education design, preschool, not kindergarten, is the time for learning to read and write. That is not the case now. It seems we may have that backwards, too?