Rotarians at Work in Puerto Rico

A Great Trip! RD6900 Visits Early Literacy Project in Puerto Rico with RD7000

PRlauraonflr15

Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Peachtree City and the Rotary Club of Henry County visited Rotary District 7000 in Puerto Rico, the site of a Global Grant for teaching basic literacy skills to preschoolers attending local Head Start programs. This project is an extension of a relationship between RD6900 and RD7000 that began in November of 2011 and has involved two Matching Grants and two Global Grants. Recipients have been in both Puerto Rico and Georgia, altogether reaching over 10,000 children.

Our visiting group of nine from RD6900 spent four days with Rotarians from clubs throughout Puerto Rico – RC Rio Piedras (Host Club), RC San Juan, RC Junco, RC Manatee, RC Mayaguez, RC Ciudad Del Turabo – attending Rotary Club meetings and visiting Head Start sites where the SOUNS program is being implemented with materials provided by the GG. The grant was a result of the efforts and financial support of Rotarians in both districts, lead by RC Peachtree City and RC Henry County in RD6900, and RC Rio Piedras in RD7000.

Rotarians going to work (in a school bus)! Pictured are President Russ Heil, PP Ed Outlaw, and Amy Matusek of RC Peachtree City, PP Laura Crumbley and husband David, PP George Siggins and wife Mary Jane of RC Henry County, and Antonio Santos of RC Rio Piedras. Taking the pictures: Peachtree City Rotarian Brenda Erickson and husband Norman Hough.

PRschoolbus15

prrusspedro15During the trip we also attended several English and Spanish-speaking Rotary Club meetings, providing us the opportunity to exchange club banners and interact with many Rotarians. The Rotarians of District 7000 and their District Governor, Jesus A. Vivas, could not have given us a more welcoming and enthusiastic reception.

Pictured are RC Rio Piedras President Pedro Watlington and RC Peachtree City President Russ Heil. Exchanging banners and conversation was a constant for the trip. Engaging eight Rotary clubs across two Rotary districts makes for a jovial time!

We visited nine classrooms in the three Head Start programs – San Juan, Caguas, and Mayaguez – talking with administrators, teachers, sponsoring Rotarians, and children. We were very impressed with the facilities, other teaching materials, and the professionalism of the staff. Imagine where these preschool children will be as emergent readers entering kindergarten when they are five years of age. The children in the image are building “peso” and have discovered who has the /o/…. playing to learn to read. Go teachers!

PRpeso15

Below are Laura Crumbly, George Siggins, David Crumbly, Mary Jane Siggins, Brenda Erickson, Ed Outlaw, and Amy Matusek.

PRonbeach15

To sum up the trip, it was a great experience for the nine Rotarians and spouses from District 6900. It gave us a chance to see with our own eyes how the grant was successfully benefitting young children from difficult circumstances and to meet Rotarians from another country who have a real desire to build a better tomorrow for their children. Beyond that, our team got to know and enjoy each other while engaging in the hands-on work of Rotary!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

TEXAS – “Let The Sounds Tell You!”

longview2-14#3

“Let the sounds tell you!” says the teacher as the child listens to the sound of each letter to find the word hiding there. That little analytical mind is at work and at play all at the same time! Learning is happening.

What a visit I had in Longview, Texas! In each of the follow-up trainings – Longview Independent School District and Pine Tree Independent School District (including Head Start and Early Start), and several independent preschools – it was soon obvious to all that the children were ahead of what their teachers expected. Learners in classrooms were either more ready to build words or more ready to sound out words than thought. Surprisingly, this was true of even those quiet learners who we suspect are not progressing as well.

The teachers in these preschool classrooms have done excellent work helping their learners know letter sounds. The next step was right there, waiting within the child. How fortunate these children are to have such a supportive community of educators wrapped around them.

Our mid-year visit was perfectly timed. Now the teachers will finish the year giving their children the greatest opportunity to flourish in this work, to know “I can!”  What a step up for success in writing and reading when they enter elementary school. We were delighted to have a kindergarten teacher sit in on the training and share her enthusiasm for what she saw unfolding for these children. She is excited to get some of these children in her classroom next year. We can’t wait to follow the story.

I acknowledge this amazing community for taking such a united stand for literacy. I also want to thank Claudette Jones for her relentless determination in supporting these teachers and the young people of her community in this effort to build readers. Souns is a great idea, but it takes willing and dedicated people to make a great idea turn into reality. The following comment from a teacher of three-year-olds makes it all so worthwhile:

Since implementing Souns in our classroom, my children have not only grown in their knowledge of letter sounds, but their self-esteem has sky rocketed! When they see the Souns their eager faces light up with anticipation.

I was surprised at how organic the whole process was and how naturally the children began to visually recognize and physically represent the Souns. After introducing a new sound, I can just sit back and watch them teach themselves and each other. It has been nothing short of remarkable!

longview2-14

Through The Hearts Of Teachers

photo-199 copy 3

Teaching the teacher (parent or caregiver) about Souns initially takes about two hours.   The Souns program – focusing only on letter-sound associations – is the most natural, developmentally appropriate route to reading for the young child. Teachers love this simple, logical, effective tool. After the introduction of the program, we observe the teacher teaching the children (below).

photo-199 copy 7

The result, often in three to four months of learning letter-sound associations, is the building of words (below). This “writing” by listening to sounds in words lasts for several weeks or a month. Taking the puzzle of a spoken word apart, building it with symbols is fun! This understanding of the structure of words leads to a seamless step into sounding out printed phonetic words.

photo-199 copy 4

Soon, the magic of decoding – sounding out words – appears spontaneously in the classroom….one little person at a time. The five-year-old in the image below is reading a sentence I wrote. She sought us out to share something she had read in the classroom. I wanted fresh material for her, so I created a short phonetic sentence, which she read with no hesitation.

photo-199 copy 2

photo-199 copy 6

Are we making a difference in South Africa? Absolutely! Rotarian volunteers teach the teachers in the implementation of a program that is provided by a Rotary Global Grant.  In a country with 11 official languages, Souns focuses ONLY on letter-sounds, most of which are the same across all the languages. Letter-sound associations are the most direct link to writing and reading. These children will walk a better path toward success in school; they will read!

“Thank you!” to The Rotary Foundation for your support of this Global Grant 25244 literacy project initiated by the Rotary Club of Pretoria East in Rotary District 9400 and the Rotary Club of Peachtree City in Rotary District 6900.

It Is Happening!

“The baby is watching them dance!” is English translation of the last sentence child reads.

One step at a time. These children had Souns in their Grade R (kindergarten) classroom last year. This mid year of Grade 1. They are well ahead of their classmates who did not have the Souns program. One child at a time – one gentle, encouraging step at a time – we will build readers in South Africa. Thank you, Rotary! You are making a difference.

One Leap For Literacy

What can eight months do for literacy in a Head Start Center? Combine a furiously determined Center Director and a local Rotary Club and children will read! The Rotary Club of Thomasville, GA, and their local Head Start Center have joined in the work of literacy.

Nine classrooms – including three Early Start classrooms – began training in the Souns program in October of 2011. Several follow-up visits occurred between October and May to observe how the work was going. During the last week of school, each of the students age-appropriate to be graduating into local kindergartens were evaluated to see progress made. The results are below. It is not surprising that they reflected a direct link between those who followed the program and those who did not. The teacher is the magic that makes any program work.

This center has an abundance of remarkable teachers working with their children. After this year’s success, we expect all the teachers will see the value of this simple program for their children. It is understandably difficult to accept a program that is counterintuitive. We have been so steeped in teaching letter-names first, that the idea of teaching letter-sounds first causes resistance. Thanks to those teachers who stepped outside the box in Thomasville, children will read. The results are quite clear. Consider the data at this year’s end, when those little four year olds who are going into their second year with this program are evaluated.

We smile with tears in our eyes at what is happening in southwest Georgia. Determined people working together can make a difference. Thank you, Rotary!

Every – Yes, every – child will read.

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!