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.
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.
Intentionality at its best! Souns games can look like this with little people, finger paints, sunshine, and water. Soooo much fun! Warm weather is an invitation to play outside with messy things in big ways. Setting out plates of individual colors about six feet apart and turning little ones loose to do as their little hands desire with color on themselves (and sometimes a willing parent) was so delightful. We used primary and secondary colors plus white. As one would expect…sensorial wins out! Paints were squished together between the fingers and spread like butter all over their little bodies. Giggles confirmed a good day for all. Cleaning up with the hose was as much fun as the painting.
Finger painting letter sounds on little backs tickled, but each could tell you the sound they felt being written… play is the best window for learning. All so GOOD!
The door of the little museum shop at Khwa ttu was closed. The rippled glass pane in the antique double doors confirmed there were people inside. I turned the handle and the door opened to quiet conversations inside.
As if scripted, the lady behind the counter and I exchanged glances and time melted.…the look on her face mirrored mine. Oh, how good is that warm feeling of seeing someone you have so enjoyed in times past. Memories are real! They breathe life into those moments when we touch the past, paging through history to the sentence, the paragraph, the story.
Wrapping each other in hugs and smiles, we revisited the little class of preschoolers at Khwa ttu, of which her child was one. Four years earlier I wandered into the facility intrigued by the call of the billboard on the highway – San Cultural and Educational Center. The story of man, specifically the bushman of South Africa, was compelling.
Khwa ttu was the beginning! A little class of children two to three years old and their hopeful moms was such a treat. The tiny facility, the little shaded play area, the magnificent view of the Atlantic, the willing minds and eager hearts imprinted my world forever. Visit after visit I came to train or teach, as they wanted. Then, the government closed the bit of heaven. Reasons are of little importance. I had lost my heart.
Nonetheless, each trip to South Africa I made my way up the long entry road to Khwa ttu in hopes of seeing the children, hearing the laughter behind the two neatly aligned stick windbreaks. I would ask for the families I had gotten to know. Fewer and fewer of them were at the center. Finally there were none left that I knew.
But still I returned, hoping for an encounter with the past. This time the past was there to meet me, confirming that the time given in that little class had made a difference for a family and their child. The child is 7 now and loves to read. That is the gift.
Memories are powerful, especially when they meet head on with the present. They are the stuff of our stories…our lives!
Below is a Peace Corps volunteer’s from-the-field report about a literacy effort she initiated. PCV’s are such a force for good in humanity. They serve in ways that change lives in lasting ways in their assigned communities. What awesome work they do! This PCV is currently structuring a plan to sustain this literacy program past her term of service.
A Family Outreach Program began in three informal settlements. Tribal leaders nominated residents to serve as “Community Development Coaches.” These Coaches were trained in early childhood development, play, nutrition, and gardening. Each Coach works with ten families for two years at a time, conducting weekly home visits and teaching both parents and children together. The program targets children ages 1-5 years whose caregivers do not have a source of income (excepting social grants). In 2011, toys and books were donated to each of the families in the program. The arrival of the books prompted the Coaches to request training in literacy. In November 2012, nine Coaches were trained on the SOUNS method and began to implement SOUNS with 110 children in the program.
Most of the children were immediately delighted with the SOUNS symbols. They readily mimicked the Coaches and eagerly handled the O-M-S-T as each sound was presented. Even the children’s caregivers were excited to participate. Many of these caregivers are illiterate, and SOUNS provides an opportunity for them to learn basic literacy skills alongside their children. At one home visit, the grandmother in charge of four young girls sat to the side, pronouncing each sound carefully and showing her granddaughters how to feel the symbol. X (pronounced “sh” in Tsonga) is already a favorite among the children who giggle every time they shush their Coach. By using the SOUNS method, the Coaches expect to prepare these children to enter Grade R on par with their peers who have attended crèche.
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.
There are compelling changes taking place in the world. We are learning about children. What we saw as a little human waiting to grow big is really a voracious, rapidly developing brain inside a slowly, but more visibly developing body. The young brain grows at an unparalleled rate, but we can’t s e e it like we can see the body grow. The body explores the world to feed the developing brain, as, interestingly, the brain must progress ahead of the body in order to safeguard the survival of the child. There is such beautiful logic, so much of which we don’t see by casual observation. Look intentionally, and you will!
Understanding the learning potential of young children can change the world in dramatic ways. It can ensure peace or exacerbate war. That little brain is going to adapt whether it means pulling a trigger or planting a seed. Peace Corps and Rotary International are powerful organizations dedicated to a peaceful world. One of the avenues to that end is literacy. If children are able to read, they will be more informed and can make decisions for themselves. People who can read are more able to take charge of their lives and are less likely to be victimized.
“I will help you learn to read!” Beyond health and love, there is NO greater gift for a child or the world then literacy. Collaborations between organizations such as Rotary International and the Peace Corps in South Africa are reaching thousands of children in rural communities. Urban populations in South Africa and in Puerto Rico are involved in literacy projects funded by The Rotary Foundation. The world may turn a little more smoothly for these children thanks to such globally minded literacy efforts.
On a smaller – but no less important – scale are individuals who are equally driven to help children. SenseAble Learning’s Della Palacios in Florida, USA, and Nikolai Pizarro in Puerto Rico with her publication Ring the Alarm are examples of the many hands reaching out to children. Della and Nikolai know the power of the young, developing mind. They know our tomorrows are defined by the experiences offered a child today.
Another hand reaching out and a thread that runs through each of the efforts mentioned above – Souns for literacy – is designed in response to the way children learn best. Souns breathes life into the tools of print, w h a t e v e r t h e l a n g u a g e. In the hands of children, Souns leads naturally and incrementally to letter-sound knowledge which leads incidentally to reading. Reading leads to success in school; and success in school leads to a more independent life. The result of an independent life is the ability to see beyond oneself, a necessity if we are to ensure peace. Many hands or the hands of one can make a difference – Every child wants to read.
Unfortunately, even with Rotary, Peace Corps, committed individuals, and so much information about how children learn, building readers remains a global challenge. We construct schools, hire fabulous teachers, stock libraries, give books; but, in the end, the parent who is with the child during the most formative years holds the key to reading. We must empower parents from the ground up if we are to impact literacy in a global way. All efforts, large or small, must touch the family, acknowledging parents as the real unit of change!
While playing in the sand at the beach, my 4-year-old daughter grabbed me and said,
“Look Mom, I made a sound.”
“Wonderful! What sound did you make?”
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!