From-the-Field in Puerto Rico


CamyZoe B. Agosto

It was very thoughtful of you to write this in English. Whatever the language, you are doing wonderful work, CamyZoe.


After becoming familiar on how to use Souns with my two daughters of 1 and 4 years old during the summer, I started using “Souns” in my classroom on August 2015. I’m a Special Education teacher from Lares, Puerto Rico. I work with 13 students ranging from 14 – 22 years old with moderate and severe cognitive disabilities. Before Souns, none of my students were able to recognize any letter. They were having lots of problems remembering letter names and sounds. By this month (November 2015), my students are showing progress through letter-sound association and recognitioPRcamy2n. I am astonished how this program is working with each one of my students. This has given them a boost to their self-esteem. Parents are so grateful, because they never thought that at this stage, their children were able to learn sounds and recognize letters the way they are doing it. The process is slowly but steady, growing each and every day. Now they loved to help each other, and help one to another when someone is struggling with a letter sound. Moreover I am learning a lot during the process and acquiring great knowledge about the fascinating link between the hand and the brain.

(The Souns materials for this classroom were provided by a Global Grant from Rotary International – RD6900 and RD7000. Thank you, Rotary!)


In SA – Time to Build

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This is Part II of our Souns training trip to South Africa where classrooms have Souns materials thanks to Rotary International Global Grants. Clubs involved in this literacy work are RC Smyrna (RD6900), RC Peachtree City (RD6900), and RC Pretoria East (RD9400). Many thanks to the Rotarian volunteers from both districts who propel this project forward in so many lasting ways.

The second week of training has been most informing: with Souns, children learn faster than teachers expect! Hands-on activities make such a difference in learning.

When, in school after school, you hear the same doubting comment each time a particular question is asked of the teacher, and the children prove the doubt is not merited, there is a lesson for all. Such information defines a focus point for our training and confirms learners are almost always ahead of where the teacher expects them to be.

Good practice with Souns suggests teachers focus Grade R (kindergarten) children on letter-sound associations beginning the first day they walk into class.  With consistency in daily, short, engaging activities, building words by listening to sounds in spoken words will be happening in their classrooms by end of first term or early second term. Many learners will be ready to sound out words by third term, if not sooner. All three stages of Souns should be present in a classroom by beginning of fourth term: continued learning of letter-sound associations, building words, and sounding out words.

Our visit was exciting because in every case the children were on course. This is the end of their first term in South Africa, but the teacher had not introduced building words yet! “It is too early! They are not ready!” Well, the children were ready! It was a delight to demonstrate for the teachers how ready the learners were. The teachers and the learners had done such good work to date. Now it was time to trust the learners and move on. Those ready learners will show the path for others in the classroom who are on their way. Young minds are always watching and always learning.

With two to three schools a day and from two to four classrooms in each school, this training week was intense and fulfilling. It has taken the first few years of this work for teachers to see the possibilities with Souns. Now the training is more about the steps the teachers need to take in order to build patterns in classroom practice.

A few sites included work with toddlers and adult learners. Building readers in South Africa – across language, circumstance, and age – is a reality for Souns. Thank you, Rotary, for putting Souns materials into the hands and minds of so many.

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Part III in the near future: surprising results of this good work in other Souns sites

“I love working with Souns!”


Manipulating concrete symbols of our print makes such a difference! Below is a comment from an Orton Gillingham teacher using the Souns materials:

I love working with souns! It adds another kinesthetic aspect to my OG lessons.  Mind and body are working together to write words. For the students I have worked with who have problems with motor skills(handwriting) it has been a relief to be able to write without the added obstacle.

I also love that students can look at what they have written and make changes easily. It lessens the fear of misspelling and correcting when you don’t have to mark through and erase.

Younger children who can’t sit still get to move while they are learning so you can keep them engaged.

As a teacher I love that Souns is so flexible, no matter the concept you can write it out and you always have the right materials. 😃

There Is A Moment!


There is a window, a clear view into the moment a child “knows” … the look on the face when a detail has moved from the outside to inside that little mind. I saw that again yesterday.

A mom and her toddler son visited Counterpane wanting to sign up for the free Souns Early Literacy Workshops (ELW) we have about every two weeks during school sessions. Meeting a lovely, engaging mom and a lively, smiling, attentive young man of about 14 months was a delight.

I had the time and chose to share the concept of Souns so they would know what to expect at her first ELW this Friday. I fetched the first four Souns letters – /o/m/s/t/ – and sat down on the floor with the child. I introduced each, one at a time, and he spent several minutes exploring their shapes, sometimes two or three in hand at a time. Ready smiles intertwined with play with the symbols…moving them from one corner of the room to another on tip-toes all the way.  He would place one on the floor, exchange one for another, dance about, and repeat.

When it was time to go, I asked if I could write the four sounds on his hands. Both mom and child agreed. I carefully wrote the /o/m/s/t/ – one on the top of each hand and one inside each hand. As he was walking out, mom and I discussed how she could reinforce the work at home. When the child heard us say /o/ that lttle body stopped, he looked at the hand that had the /o/ on it and then over at us.  It was one of those moments where the eyes speak, “I know!”

Interact Implements Souns at the IRC


This blog shares the good works of out Counterpane Interact Club, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Peachtree City, GA, in RD6900. Students go weekly to the IRC (International Rescue Committee) in Atlanta to train teachers and learners

Two Interactors and a parent and/or teacher go to the Atlanta location of the IRC each week to assist in the training with Souns for the refugees. These lovely people from so many places in the world are often not literate in their own language and then must adapt to our culture within a short period of time. Souns has helped them tremendously and helping with the program helps our students as well. For a time we worked with the refugee children as well, but they are not there long enough to make a difference and it is the mother that is our focus now. The mothers most often do not feel competent as teachers of their children. We are changing that, as we train them to train their children with  Souns, in the same way they learn themselves. It is pretty impressive to see the difference it is making. We have been doing this for nearly five years now. It is no small outcome to see the compassion demonstrated by our students.

Click this line to see an IRC Bulletin sharing this project.



“Babies Can’t Wait / Souns” Update 2013


Hosting the Counterpane Golf Classic to support Babies Can’t Wait are nine members of the Counterpane Interact Club sponsored by the Rotary Club of Peachtree City, GA (D6900).

If your child is enrolled in Georgia’s Babies Can’t Wait program in Fayette or Coweta Counties, he or she is eligible to receive, free-of-charge, certain materials from the Souns for Literacy program. This is being provided through the generous giving of those who support the Counterpane Golf Classic. Counterpane is grateful to our community and for our ability to give to children beyond our walls. Together, we have helped hundreds of Babies Can’t Wait families build literacy through Souns. As one father shared:

“My child was born a premee – now he is top of his class thanks to Souns and Babies Can’t Wait.”

Recent national research in early learning is pointing to the need to expose children under three to the printed symbol, thus combatting our rising problems with childhood literacy in this country. The research also confirms that the method of teaching reading to children that shows significant success is one that exposes children to learning the sounds of the alphabet.  The Souns method works by caregivers giving their child lower-case letter shapes (4 inch, hard, nylon symbols) and using the most common letter sounds instead of the letter names to describe them to the child. The method uses natural learning through play and parent interaction. For a full description and photos please read the Souns White Paper.

Babies Can’t Wait is committed to helping children achieve their full potential through supporting a family’s capacity to give their children all the opportunities available to them. Providers in the Babies Can’t Wait program in Fayette County are trained in implementing the Souns method of literacy and can guide caregivers through the process while they are enrolled in Babies Can’t Wait. Once the child exits the Babies Can’t Wait program they can still continue to work with Souns materials and receive support through monthly visits to the Peachtree City Public Library, or attending Counterpane School’s free Early Literacy Workshops The only thing requested of the caregivers is open communication about their needs as they implement the program with their child. We realize importance of individualization for families and children.

The image above comes from our archives and reflects when each letter was crafted in wood. We thank United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta for funding molds for Souns. While wood is beautiful, it breaks and is not as easily cleaned as the nylon. Counterpane seeks support for this outreach program. Consider playing in or sponsoring our annual Golf Classic, designed specifically for our literacy outreach locally.

Please join our extended community to help this cause. We are making a difference.

A Jewel In Colorado!


This lovely woman, Della Palacios, is now living in Boulder, Colorado. One of her offerings is Souns and Rhymes classes for little people. Get to know this remarkable talent. I celebrate that she is a Souns trainer as well!

Souns and Rhymes

The design of this class is to establish a foundation so firm that no holes will ever appear in fundamental literacy skills. It’s a simple brilliance that makes it so profound.  Souns® and Rhymes classes consist of two core elements: letter sounds and nursery rhymes.  Parents interact with children as language and literacy is brought to life.

I used Souns with my children and taught them nursery rhymes, but it was not until they were three and four years old.  Now, I am having the pleasure of watching one-year old babes learn nursery rhymes and letter sounds.  Two weeks ago, a 16 month-old said “row row row” in eager anticipation of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  Another 17-month old pointed out the “mmm” when asked on the poster displaying the rhyme “mary had a little lamb.”  She connected the label of the Souns symbol, /mmm/, to the print on the poster.
Simple is best.  Teach children nursery rhymes.  Teach children letter sounds with lower case letters first.  Children will read.

“a remarkable tool”

As a professional I have used Souns in therapeutic play, as a teacher, and as a classroom facilitator; but Souns is so much more personal to me and my family.  We introduced Souns to our toddler and enjoyed watching him begin to mouth and sound out the alphabet one symbol at a time.  As he began to identify these symbols on placards and traffic signs we started the exciting process of blending sounds and later decoding.  During this process my son was identified as having pervasive developmental delays. Now, at age eight, he still works hard on self regulation and focus, but demonstrates fifth grade reading comprehension, is writing in a journal most days, and loves to read at night before he falls asleep.

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This personal process helped me to identify other children who were able to learn letter sound recognition using Souns.  As a special needs teacher in a DIR/Floortime school I used Souns to give meaning to the alphabetic symbols when children had memorized the letter names. Some of my non-verbal students were able to give the sound of a letter as the first means of language.  A child may not be able to say cookie but could grab the “c” cuh to express what s/he wanted.

I have also used Souns to help children who struggle with fine-motor delays.  Using the large letters, children are able to “write” words and short sentences by placing the letters together to form phonetically spelled words. The child is able to produce inventive writing  while their fine motor skills continue to develop.

Both personally and professionally Souns has proven to be a remarkable tool when introduced playfully and strategically during the appropriate developmental level.

Kellie Porter-Burks M.Ed.
DIR/Floortime Practitioner

A Few Weeks Ago


Della Palacios  @sensablelrning

A few weeks ago I met a young man who, due to life’s circumstances, started school many years after most children.  His native language is Spanish, although I would not have known as he spoke so well.His caregivers called me to see if I may be able to help him with his reading.  The computerized assessment he was given had him reading at a primary level, even though he is a freshman in high school and is several years older than most of the others in his class.

When I arrived, I introduced myself and explained that I am like a reading detective, trying to figure out what’s going on.  He was very polite so when I asked if he struggled, he answered simply, “Yes, ma’am.”  

I started like I always start with older learners, with a Sound Check using #Souns.  It was evident pretty quickly, he only knew letter names and was trying to convert them into some variation.  He did not know any sounds besides /f/ when I went through the first half.  I stopped there as I didn’t want to embarrass or frustrate him and thought carefully about what reading passage I wanted to begin with.  

I should mention here that the computerized reading assessment ‘s results said he knew his beginning sounds and blends?!

I pulled out a few phonetic phrases and he read them fine.  I looked at him and said, ”Wow.  You are smart.  You have memorized an awful lot of words to be able to read to me what you just read.”  Again, he answered, “Yes, ma’am.”

So, I told him that learning his letter sounds will help.  It will help him figure out new words he hasn’t memorized.  We began and after practicing with a number of Souns at a time, he wrote.  He wrote pot and mop and dog and cat.  Three letter words were difficult for him.  This is not at all surprising as it reveals the confusion with the short vowel sounds that get well hidden by word memorization.  I asked him if he remembered how they taught him to read when he started school since he started late.  He said the first book he every read was “Up and Down” and he recited it to me.  It sounded like a sight word book.

So we continued to work and build.  I would hear him going through the sounds in front of him while I was fumbling through the tub with the Souns symbols.  I asked if he thought it would help him and he said, “Yes, ma’am.”  He shook my hand and thanked me quite genuinely for coming before I left. 

I went to meet with him a few more times.  Both visits were the same: sound practice, word construction, and basic reading practice.  By the end of the last session, he recalled 21/26 letter sounds and three of the six digraphs.  The vowels are still the most troubling.  

The most telling thing about his reading experience thus far was the miscues that he did as I asked him to read passages for me.   We read from the McGuffey Reader.

Instead of pen, he read open.

Instead of pen,  he read pan.

Instead of run, he read ran.

Instead of song, he read sound.

Instead of pond, he read pound.

Instead of bank, he read blank.

Instead of bead, he read bread.

instead of beak, he read bake.

Instead of quite, he read quietly.

Shapes of the words were similar.  The words looked a lot like the others.  He is putting in so much mental energy into recalling each individual word, comprehension is not happening.  He is extremely bright, so once he does catch on to and start processing the language code, I suspect reading will improve.  The time and practice must take place, though.



Souns With Remedial Group in SA


Thanks for your marvellous mail. The project is slowly developing
legs. Regards, Rotarian from Rotary Club Pretoria East

Hi [R and E],

I used SOUNS exclusively for a month in this remedial class of 10 students of 4th graders plus one 6th grader. Most of them have failed a couple of grades but I don’t know exactly what their ages are. They were suspected of being special ed students (I am a retired special ed teacher), but I think 
only one of them actually might have real processing difficulties. She still 
confuses the b, d, p, etc. and other sounds at times. Almost all of the 
students confused especially these three letter sounds at the beginning, 
with a mix of a few other letter sounds, but now do not confuse any of them.
 The word writing really took off when the diagraphs were introduced. If SOUNS was to be used for older, remedial students across Africa, my wish
 would be to have several sets of the letters available in a 
classroom, with a large table. That way they could write [words] and write to their 
heart’s content without waiting for someone else to finish using a letter.
 They could even write short sentences. I know several sets isn’t a practical 
possibility, but they love writing with those letters, and even 
watching other students write with them.

Thanks again,

[Special Ed Teacher]


NOTE: What is described in this learning situation is exactly what our Interact Club does when working with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Georgia, USA: there is a large table around which the refugees sit and build words with the letters by listening to sounds in the names of things like fruit and vegetables, etc. Spelling is not the focus, letter-sound associations are key to early writing…whatever the age. They love helping one another build words, giggling at their successes. It is really beautiful to see.