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!)


“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. 😃

“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.


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.