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!)


Coding to Encoding to Decoding


Are we there yet?

We recently returned from a visit to three Head Start programs in Puerto Rico. This message is in response to what we saw: Teachers are doing a great job with Souns. The missing piece is an understanding that children are ready to build words before you think they are. We asked teachers if they had begun building words, and the answer was “No, not yet!”

In each classroom, with the “No, not yet!” response, we asked for two or three children who knew through the /u/ sound. In each case the children who were selected eagerly listened to the sounds in simple, phonetic words, and built the words. The teachers were so excited, as were the children.

The picture above is one of those moments. Look at the joy on the children’s faces as they apply what they know about letter-sound associations to real words….building the words from sounds only (remember, no spelling)! For us, for the teachers, and for the children, it was a beautiful experience. Such activities are particularly inspiring for the children observing, those not yet to the /u/, as they see their efforts have a purpose.

Certainly it is important not to set a child up for failure, so I appreciate being slower than faster for this second stage in Souns – building words. However, there is a way to be relatively sure the child is ready to listen to sounds in phonetic words and build each word – one sound at a time.

When you reach /u/ in the sequence of Souns letters, it is the time to move forward into building words for children three to four years of age. Go slowly – no more than two to three words at any setting – and have fun. Look at the delight as the children around the table in the photo discover who has the missing sound in “peso.”

When you reach /u/ in the sequence of Souns letters, it is time to build words.

Now 6 and Ready to Read to Learn

Oh, such happiness displayed! The confidence, the knowing “I can read!” wraps every word. This six-year-old will be entering first grade this year with a joy of reading that will make learning unfold as it should for young children.

She began Souns as a toddler.  A walkabout through SounsTalk will touch her journey, learning the tools for reading (letter sounds)…one step at a time….playing and exploring all the way! As her mother said, “it was effortless!”

Many thanks to this wonderful family for sharing their experience with Souns.


Rotary + Head Start = Building Early Literacy

“There is nothing like an “I know!” It can come from a child or a teacher, but the smile, the joy, the power in that moment is magic. Such arrival points happen in an endless stream when we train for Souns…both with the children and with the teachers. I thank Rotary for providing Souns early literacy materials to so many classrooms, making a difference for so many people, and building possibilities for so many children. The following documents two projects; but, sadly, words cannot express the glee that comes with the engagement that unfolds as a result of those projects. For example, the image below is a Souns child teaching new teachers how to use the materials. Our children are our best teachers.


What a collaboration! Dedicated teachers supported by the engaged hands and hearts of Rotary are making a difference for children in Head Start in Puerto Rico and Georgia, USA.

Head Start teachers from Southwest Georgia Community Action Council (SWGACAC) and the San Juan Municipality Head Start program are familiar with Souns, as some of their classrooms have used the program for several years. They were so happy with the results that each requested help to provide Souns materials to all of their classrooms. Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation have supported that request.


For Puerto Rico, there were two Matching Grants from Rotary District 6990 (RC Ft. Lauderdale South) and Rotary District 7000 (RC Rio Piedras) in support of the Head Start program in the San Juan Municipality. The first grant provided materials for half of the classrooms in the program, and the second and most recent grant provided materials for the remainder of the classrooms in the program, together serving 3000 children. Training of new teachers for implementation of Souns  and distribution of the second round of materials was January 9-10, 2014. We trained 127 teachers in two days. The training trip was particularly successful as we also trained Souns trainers to help teachers as they progress through the program. Sustainability requires a program grow legs, and that is what is happening in Puerto Rico with the Souns program.

sounsGAtraining1-14 amy

For Georgia’s SWGACAC Head Start program, The Rotary Foundation supported a Global Grant between Rotary District 6900 (RC Peachtree City) and Rotary District 7000 (RC Rio Piedras) providing materials to fully equip classrooms reaching 2500 children. This is a three-year grant and 2014 is the first year. We trained well over a hundred teachers on January 3rd and distributed materials to each of the classrooms. It was a fantastic experience, as Rotary Club of Peachtree City members delivered the materials personally to the teachers and participated in the training. It is so much fun to share the joy. During the three years, follow-up trainings are scheduled and visits by Rotary clubs in the area that support this effort are planned. Rotarians love to engage with projects, as that is the essence of Rotary.

Teachers Share – SA 2013



From a transcription of a meeting with teachers from primary schools in South Africa:

“So learners were given the presentation [with Souns] and then it was easy for the teacher, because most of the time we just present [material] without having resources on hand. We are writing on the boards. [With Souns] learners have the opportunity to go and touch so that was easy. They touched and they were able to associate the tool with the sound. It was easy for them. And those learners that were battling with acquiring knowledge without having a tool on hand got an opportunity. They are seated around [and] they had their chance to touch, to associate, to match, to build. And then it was just easy for them [and] it was easy for the teacher.”

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!




“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.

asa stripes 2
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

Souns FUN = Intentional Learning!


Parents and children learning together is the best! Our Early Literacy Workshop today was a great example. Getting the hands into the building of letter-sound knowledge with finger paints – little hands and big hands. No letter-names are found in our environment until after the child has begun sounding out simple phonetic words comfortably, which usually happens between three to four years of age for typically developing children who have followed this very informal program. One little one – not yet two years  – loves her Souns and knows ten of her letter-sound associations already. I smiled at her and quietly enticed, “You think you are ready for a new sound?” She responded with a spontaneous and confident smile, “Yes!” I introduced /u/ to her and she shared it with her dad. What fun is this!!! I told her dad, “I can’t wait for you to see what three looks like for your child!”

Another member of the group is being helped to learn letter-sounds by his older sibling. They each are having fun “teaching” mom letter-sounds. Moms can be the most inspiring students for their children.

Another mom shared that her child – the youngest in the group – seemed to learn the first four sounds slowly, but the fifth sound was learned the same day it was introduced. This is what we see quite often. Once the child has created the “hook” for letter-sound associations with the first four Souns symbols, the rest snap right into place. Those little minds are amazing, particularly if play and child-time are taken seriously.

It was a great day for all!



FUN (with Souns Cookies), Anyone?


Another great gathering with Souns families! Measurable progress is being made and critical learning for us in how to best prepare parents to implement the Souns program in the home. Watching children explore and learn letter-sound associations through play informs one of more natural paths to writing and reading.

One of the parents surprised us with a plate of homemade /o/m/s/t/ cookies. The children eagerly chose a sound, “I have an /o/,” giggling as they ate. What a fun way to engage children with letter-sounds.

Another family who could not attend this morning’s workshop sent us images or their child working with Souns at home. She spent the morning lining up her many stuffed animals to teach them Souns. It is interesting that this is an activity often engaged in by young Souns kids.

We viewed a video on music and movement for infants and toddlers, readying for a workshop where we will introduce simple creative ways to include music and movement into a child’s world.






Little animals all lined up for their Souns lesson! Guess who is doing the learning?

One Preschool – One School Year!

Souns® for Literacy in the GET-SET Preschool in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

SounsGetSetletters2013This graph – in percents – represents letter-sound knowledge for learners (N=34) in the GET SET preschool classroom, comparing data collected at the beginning of the school year and at the conclusion of the school year. Consider the future step into kindergarten for these children.

 While in a separate graph, it is important to mention that the majority of the learners knew 6 digraphs, and could sound out 9 phonetic words. It is awe inspiring to see the potential awaiting classrooms when children are supported and learning is fun. The focus on letter-sound associations in exclusion of letter-name associations (until decoding begins) clearly makes a difference in building young writers and readers.The Souns program is evidence based and it works! Thank you, Rotarians, for the gift of Souns! Thank you teachers and volunteers of GET SET for ensuring that our  c h i l d r e n   w i l l   r e a d !