Posted by Doreen Higgins on Oct 23, 2017
Brenda Erickson told us last week about her program of teaching infants and toddlers to speak English with a letter-sound program with touchable symbols. The letter symbols the children handle, which are each about the size of a pretzel are, of course, shaped like the letter they represent and have touchable markings on them (perhaps a little like brail in intent) for the children to recognize by feel. The children are taught the sounds represented by each letter while seeing the form of the letter.
 
Brenda has four decades of teaching experience and is the moving force in the Rotary 6900 District Partnership with 18 counties in Southwest Georgia. The partnership has the objective of advancing literacy among some 2000 children living at poverty level or lower. Brenda created the Souns Program for the Counterpane School, a non-profit organization for literary outreach, blending elements of Piaget and Montessori with her own experience with little children.

The stated objectives of the program are to teach children with normal development capability the sounds of the letters in the English alphabet; however, the system is particularly powerful for children with intellectual, physical, and/or developmental disabilities. Early reading capability, Brenda emphasized, is key to achieving normal end-of-kindergarten standard literacy, and for success in proceeding with the next educational programs as the child gets older. The initial introduction of Souns should be for ages 5 months to 24 months; the letters can be played with, at the earliest ages, like blocks or a ball. Brenda emphasized here the importance of the hand and the sense of touch – little children always want to touch things – a sense which helps with early learning.

This program is also very effective for adults who are learning English as a second language, and if there is a family with children whose members all need to learn English, those members can learn together. For families or individuals needing English speaking ability whose native language does not use the English language alphabet, the system is invaluable. For more information, contact www.souns.org or souns@counterpane.org.
 
Below is a photo of President Toni and Brenda Erickson.