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!)


A Jewel In Colorado!


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.

I used Souns with my children and taught them nursery rhymes, but it was not until they were three and four years old.  Now, I am having the pleasure of watching one-year old babes learn nursery rhymes and letter sounds.  Two weeks ago, a 16 month-old said “row row row” in eager anticipation of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  Another 17-month old pointed out the “mmm” when asked on the poster displaying the rhyme “mary had a little lamb.”  She connected the label of the Souns symbol, /mmm/, to the print on the poster.
Simple is best.  Teach children nursery rhymes.  Teach children letter sounds with lower case letters first.  Children will read.

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.


“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

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!

Birth To Three Institute in D.C.


What invigorating conversations with beautiful, passionate people were enjoyed at BTT Institute, June 12-14. Souns is committed to making a difference in early literacy for children, and open hearts and like-minded educators at this event were like a stream running through it without end. Another wonderful BTT Institute, another year toward a better world for children learning to read and write.We learned and laughed together as we played being the child for a bit! It was a very good thing. (1066 and all that)



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