SounsAfrica – Hands-on Makes a Difference



Thank you, Rotary Districts 6900 and  9400, and The Rotary Foundation! Another confirming detail from recipients of your gift of literacy through the Souns program. The following communication says this project is making a difference!

Working with remedial students using the Souns program:

The students got through the program already today after starting about January 15th, probably because they are older, but they did not know all the letter sounds before now. They just loved manipulating the Souns and making words. I think they could have played with them for weeks. I will probably let them work with the Souns letters off and on all year. I just love the picture with the kid who figured out how to write “scool.” 


“Babies Can’t Wait / Souns” Update 2013


Counterpane Interact Club sponsored by Rotary Club of Peachtree City, GA (D6900) supporting Babies-Can’t Wait 2013!

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.

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 our annual Golf Classic, designed specifically for our literacy outreach locally.

Please consider joining in our extended community to help this cause.

Every – Yes, Every!

I am not suggesting anyone is underestimating a child’s abilities.

The word “every” has provoked what I perceive as a reader to be a toxic response.  Let me explain where I feel the misunderstanding began.

I said I didn’t really care for the word every because I include *Sally in the realm of every.  *Sally is a neighbor of ours.  She is 12 and does not speak purposefully. She is profound on the Autism Spectrum.  When I saw Souns used successfully on video with a young special needs child, I wondered if it would help her.

For a while, I went to her home almost daily, working 5 minutes a day using Souns.  I fumbled my way along, not really knowing what I was doing, but I wanted to see if it helped her.  I cannot imagine having a child who I cannot communicate with.  Her school only has letter names/ capital letters/ etc. on her IEP that she has shown little progress learning.

She learned to say the first 8 sounds using Souns!  Often, she repeated and a few times she offered the sound before I said it.  Her mother came to the training when Brenda was here and I’m hopeful she will continue to work with her.  I did record my voice saying each sound on a sound board since her mother is uncertain of some sounds as Spanish is her native language.

I did not know if I was getting anywhere, but her mother said I was.  She said I did what no speech therapist had done, “get her to say the sounds.”  She had never verbally produced some of these sounds before.  Will she read?  I don’t know.  I will not say no, but if there is a path to literacy for her, this is it. The symbol (Braille especially) drew her into “our” world.  She focused, made more eye contact, sat still, ticked less, etc. Now, if she made this kind of progress in a few months where schools have gotten virtually nowhere in years.  Communication boards did not help her communicate.  She never initiated anything.  Our goal is to get to a place where she can somehow communicate “hot” or “hurt.”  If she can say /h/ /o/ and /t/ maybe we can get to hot.

The point is, I’m not ready to rule *Sally out as a reader.  I prefer to avoid the use of absolutes, but I like Brenda, will not sit in front of a child and assume, that the child will never read.

And if there is a path to get there, it is Souns.  There is a lot of important work being done right now.

Questioning is fine but constructive responses are appreciated.

Perhaps this is where the 95% idea came from.  I’m not certain.  Once you have received Souns Training and sit with a child, you will understand the  potential.   It’s virtually impossible to have the understanding through a computer.

submitted by Della Palacios of  SensAble Learning, LLC

It Began With Rotary! Now Look!

This literacy effort began with a Rotary Matching Grant between RD6900 and RD9350. The lead Rotary clubs were RC Peachtree City (USA) and RC Sea Point (South Africa).  Now look! SounsAfrica has grown legs of its own!!

The following is an email with a powerful attachment from Knysna Education Trust in South Africa. KET is the source for Souns in South Africa for all activities outside of Rotary projects. They are really making a difference for literacy.

I thought you may be interested in the survey that I collated in June this year.  We are very pleased with the results that it shows.  I need to do another one for DG Murray Trust mid-September.  It is a lot of work and effort by many stakeholders to come out with this summary, but it tells us what we want to know.

The results in the 5 primary schools in the Knysna townships, where our preschool learners move on to, are also much better this year, which is the first year that Grade 1 results are able to be measured since starting the programme in the preschools.  The school management team of the Western Cape Education Department have told me that those 5 schools are much better this year.

Lesley S.   / Knysna Education Trust

Even Start Family Literacy Program

A school year has spun by so quickly since we began Souns with the Even Start Family Literacy Program in Georgia. Five counties participated, with one center in each. The centers ranged from childcare settings which met daily during the week to centers with once a month visits by families. Almost every site included home visits by Even Start teachers.

From my experience, the people involved in ESFLP are an inspiration and such a positive reflection on the efforts to build literacy in Georgia. Each site is unique in its style and population. I have delighted in the eagerness of a parent watching her four-year-old child demonstrate letter-sound knowledge while she, herself, was on her way to a classroom to study for the GED. She is determined her child will have a head start in school. A home visitor shared the success she was having with a family whose child was not succeeding in school because of reading issues. There are abundant anecdotes of how Souns made a difference for children and their families. One teacher bemoaned the fact that the Even Start Family Literacy Program did not have Souns until this year, saying it would have made a tremendous difference had they had it during previous years.

We also learned about the conditions that make it harder for Souns to succeed. Souns works best when a child has regular exposure to the program. Souns once a month does not give as positive results as Souns being taught each day. Home visits were successful where the family supported the program between visits. Children who miss many days of school are clearly in jeopardy of not progressing as well as their classmates who attend regularly. The teachers voiced this frustration many times, “The program works if the child is here.”

Souns is an early literacy program that teachers love and children love if we can get the teacher, the material, and the children together on a regular basis. An exceptional academic program and great teachers are two critical legs of a stool that will not stand without the third leg – the child, supported by their family. The issues that challenge families who qualify for Georgia’s Even Start Family Literacy Program are clearly issues that are not easily remedied by the best of intentions or the greatest of programs and teachers. We must find a way to intercept families earlier and in incidental ways that adapt to the needs and schedules of very determined parents with complicated daily lives. How can we reach the most predictable teacher for a child  – the parent – with the right information to build literacy at home? This hope I gained from this year. That is our goal, and I thank the Even Start Family Literacy Program for giving us such a clear direction for helping children. Every parent wants their child to read!

Ah-Ha Moments

  I registered for the Florida Literacy Conference on a whim. My rationale went something like this, “Adult and Family Literacy certainly applies to SensAbleLearning, LLC, I’ll go.” It was a very good whim.

At the conference, I had my first experience using Souns® with an adult learner.  He inquisitively looked at the Souns® symbols (letters) and I explained quickly how the program worked the first time he happened by.  I realized quickly that his curiosity was more than piqued as he touched the letters and said the sounds with me.  I wondered if he could read, but I did not ask.

He left to attend a workshop but he soon returned and apologized for having to leave.  I asked if he would like to sit and work with me for a bit using Souns®.  He said yes.  We went through each letter sound, just as the program suggests.  Most of the sounds he learned very quickly.  I have the tracking sheet we used. He did not recognize many of the letter sounds initially, but we practiced and he learned.  Next, I began building words with him using Souns® symbols and the objects I have ready in my box of three letter words.  With each new word he built, a smile stretched from ear to ear displaying his delight in what I can only assume is a new understanding of this mysterious language code.  I wish I had more time with this young man.

I loved every ah-ha moment that came across the faces of trained professionals, tutors and scholars  as they “got” how teaching sounds first before letter names removes much of the confusion not needed for a beginning reader.  But, the ah-ha that will remain in my heart is the one I saw in the smile of the curious young man.

Della Palacios                                                                                                                                Founder and Owner of SensAble Learning, LLC