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Souns Early Childhood Education with IRDI

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Today we will be talking with Brenda of Souns.org.

Souns is a revolutionary method for teaching super-early child literacy and we will be hearing from her about what it is, why it works, and why it is so important.

The show will be hosted by Ryan Orrock and Steven Putter.

Transcript

0:21 Ryan Orrock

So hello everyone, this is Ryan Orrock here together with Steven Putter as usual for Doversity Radio and the Imagine Rural Development Initiative and today we are very excited to hear from Brenda, who is representing souns.org and Souns is an early childhood literacy program that I am going to let Brenda describe most of it to us. So, welcome Brenda Erickson from Souns.

0:51 Brenda Erickson

Hello thank you for allowing me to have this time with you. Souns is a hands-on phonics program for children, for children 0 to 5 ideally. Our practice is in several places, South Africa, Zambia to be and Puerto Rico, United States, etc. It's about letter-sound knowledge only, which is a very, very important route to reading as it just simplify the teaching of reading by giving the letter-sound first and putting the sounds in the mind of the child first, the way that were designed or one symbol and one sound which would be if I made the short vowel sounds which is a, e, i, o, u for English, but the beauty of this program is our __2:00__ program with the sounds program, it said it does reach children of any language that uses the __02:07__ for that.

2:10 Ryan Orrock

Okay, can I break in?

2:12 Brenda Erickson

No, please do.

2:13 Ryan Orrock

Okay yeah.

2:14 Brenda Erickson

The hollowness, it is terrible to talk to. Go ahead.

2:19 Ryan Orrock

Let's start out, I mean before we get too deeply into the program, what is the challenge that we are facing, what caused you to create this program in the first place?

2:33 Brenda Erickson

Children wanting to read and not being given the information they need as early as they are ready for it. Brain research and everything I have ever seen in 30 years of working with children plus we are giving them the right information at the right time and I am a Montessori teacher and so even learning the Montessori made references to the fact that were not starting young enough and that does not mean teaching children younger or having iPod younger or having school younger, it means giving the child real information younger such a ball, a hat, an ah and um, etc. It is an object. It is objects labelling time. My obligation was, it was very clear a child told me in my hands are important I need to hold things, I need to learn things. I need to build my brain, I am ready and what we have are real tools, this is what the outcome is.

3:38 Ryan Orrock

So, for those who aren't familiar with what's happening within United States, I guess, where you are based actually?

3:46 Brenda Erickson

I live at Atlanta, Georgia which is South of Atlanta via about 15 minutes.

3:50 Ryan Orrock

So what are the literacy rates like in the States, what's the evidence that people aren't learning to read or aren't going to read well enough?

4:02 Brenda Erickson

Approaching 38% of all third graders across all socio-academic levels are failing basic reading skills.

4:11 Ryan Orrock

So basically by that time, they should have basic reading skills.

4:16 Brenda Erickson

Yes and then the alarming fact is that about only 1% of those who fail actually become too efficient by the time they are on the top grade.

4:31 Ryan Orrock

And so you are saying a big reason for this is because we are offering too little, too late as far as literacy education goes.

4:37 Brenda Erickson

Yes, I think timing is everything with children. Their brain is the most receptive to language from 0 to 3, as they can ride a very man-made skill of literacy on that way that would be much less than basic for the child. Less for natural.

4:56 Ryan Orrock

Right. And if a child does not have those literary or literacy skills by the time they are in fourth grade, what effect is that likely to have on their life as time goes on?

5:09 Brenda Erickson

Imagine not being able to read at the rate when one needs to read to assume to activate themselves to all the subject matter. It has an effect on mass, it has an effect on everything. In that issues, it has a lot to do with reading issues. And then college, you know in college failure is a directly related to the lack of ability to read proficiently.

5:34 Ryan Orrock

Right and the failure there would seem to then reduce employability...

5:42 Brenda Erickson

Exactly.

5:43 Ryan Orrock

Income, all sorts of things, right?

5:44 Brenda Erickson

Functionality. You can't -- I mean, how can you defend yourself if you are having the right information, you can't even read prescriptions. It so reaching, globally it is so reaching.

5:59 Ryan Orrock

So, it's not only, it's really dangerous. It seems to be a dangerous thing for the individual and also the interest of society.

6:08 Brenda Erickson

I would suggest, it predisposes that individual to becoming a victim that whatever country they live in and whatever situation they are in.

6:21 Ryan Orrock

So, with no control over the language others will control the language control at you at the very week.

6:26 Brenda Erickson

That's right exactly. Right.

6:28 Ryan Orrock

Alright. Okay, so you looked at this problem and with your background, what was the process of the thinking or the process that you had in creating this.

6:44 Brenda Erickson

It's about watching the child using those hands and saying okay we need this to be a program that sticks to that child's needs and the child wants a real shovel and a real bucket and they want a real hat and a real coat and they learn those things and if you given a real ah and a real um, they just had information, they build with it because they are strong, they are strong minded and they are learning differently at that very young age as a baby even and then level then again.

7:23 Ryan Orrock

So, by the way Steven, I don't know if we've heard you. Steven is on the line too. Right Steven?

7:29 Steven Putter

Hi good day everybody.

7:31 Brenda Erickson

Good day. Hi Steven.

7:33 Ryan Orrock

We definitely don't mean to forget you. Jump in anytime you want Steven.

7:39 Steven Putter

No, please if find this too much too interesting. I am just listening and I am just adding everything to what I know about early childhood development and neurological development and you know, if you look at the neurological development of a child, what bring I saying here is at 2, because the ability of the child to make that neuro connections and to pull that neuro connections will be in that first three years of their lives. It is so important. You basically got eight years to lay the foundation of education of which the first three years is most important for language and it is just mind blowing what can actually be achieved if this is brought into the educational construct rather than leading a child at least five or six years old before he actually enters. The educational model or as far as literacy is concerned because if you have lost that golden opportunity of doing it in a plainful manner, because that is really what sounds about. It is the playfulness that can stick into action and that is really what it is about and when you leave it all until 6-7 years old, now you have to force the child to learn. You know if you are go in to the field of psychology, psychologist will tell you that the imprinting that has taken place between birth and seven years of age is almost impossible to change during late years. If the psychological damage will be in the first seven years of a child's life, it is almost impossible to change that later and it is because of the neuro and the way that the neurology is formed during that first seven years that makes the years what we call imprinting.

9:46 Steven Putter

In other words, it is imprinted into the neurological program. Now, imagine if you can take literacy and actually making an imprint, it becomes like breathing and a heartbeat in state of something that has been learned by repetition and that is how we teach children literacy. We teach them by repetition, you know, they sit and make a little songs of a, b, c, d and if they say it enough time, they will remember it and as far as I am concerned, I am a little hardcore as you know, you took this functional system of education. Hence, it goes against everything that we know about trained development in children about the right stages to do the right thing.

10:39 Brenda Erickson

If I could add to that Steven that people say that we enjoy information, but we actually do that we prune, the brain prunes, it is what the child is born with more cells than they can sustain. And so those cells are pruned if not used. If you do not come into a baby's world, unless the information that they need to __11:06__. The brain will prune the unnecessary cells in that brain and one only has to see what would happen then if a parent talks to the child often and points in the grocery store to an a or an o in the other languages and then um and what happened with that child. They actually are using and saving this information and then you repeatedly makes, you make clay um and you make a pink um and you make an um in the dirt and that point ums which is an m and case this is not making sense to you, and then the child has a simulated um totally a simulated um, which means to me, when they go in some place, that's fair, they own that information and it does, it is the time to do it from 0 to 3 and if you don't do that, which does also go back to the text that the moms. Moms and families are the critical unit for literacy and it is true often that parents don't figure themselves as a source for their child's ability to read. We have built a system that makes everyone think they go school to learn to read and they should be learning to read the same way they learned to eat or play with their toys or dress themselves.

12:43 Brenda Erickson

You have 26 little symbols in the alphabet. With just about the same as you have, _12:53_ the child knows and it is so much easier to do it naturally, a little bit of the time and it does indeed are in the child to build words and encode and decode just like to dress themselves and learn to eat. It is that natural and we are missing it and does not take a teacher "to do that". It can take a parent or a caregiver to do that. Given special training. Just to focus on letter sounds only, not a-b-c's, because a-b-c is also out of the paving initially looking things up in a dictionary. Not too much later and we need the other child. Those for sound and the name you are given that child a 1 in 8 chance of getting a three-letter word correct. So, just give them a one on one chance by giving them sound only so the air can hear what the mouth is saying and that is simple as __13:59__ is as well as sounds that's it. You know, focus on what it sounds and let the mom and the dad and everyone know "you can do this".

14:10 Ryan Orrock

Yeah. I mean English is even more difficult because each letter can have multiple sounds depending on basically.

14:18 Brenda Erickson

Right and there's no right. Right, right Ryan but you arrive at that later it is in crab mental learning.

14:24 Ryan Orrock

Alright.

14:25 Brenda Erickson

There are three other words for a child are hot, and mop, and cup, and nap, and sit, etc. They are the short vowel sounds and the hard consonant sounds and you build on confidence so you build incrementally one step at time. The childhood that _14:40_ themselves, but you make some explore more and try more and listen more and this is charcoal, it is just beautiful spiral actually.

14:53 Ryan Orrock

So your goal is to actually have the sounds program in every home if I am not mistaken.

15:01 Brenda Erickson

I would like to have the sounds, philosophy and program in every mother's mind because with all without the materials, there are able to do __15:11__ children to read if they just participate in a natural way with no special training just when you are around and you see such symbols and there are more symbols in a child's world and a parent ever considers, but you just call it by each letter sound. It is most used letter sound. You have all of the options of a letter that the most common sounds for each symbol so you have a pure phonics program, you have one _15:41_ and leave it there until the childhood reaches the level of understanding and then when the child says, but what about late they would have late where's the a, you say you know you got the magic a and it says, the a should say a you know that's for a year later that comes in just like we all learn a little bit at a time and then it can deliberate the research on brain development, cognitive resources did not allow for the child of taking too much at one time for any of us to take it too much in one time. The brain becomes tired with new information, it stimulates other information and then it is calm okay and it is ready for new information and so you give it information incrementally. So that it can build a really solid foundation _16:41_.

16:41 Ryan Orrock

That reminds me of all the finals taking place, all at the same time.

16:46 Brenda Erickson

Oh boy. Yes.

16:50 Ryan Orrock

And kind of them and we can maybe if you are lucky, you can climb it, but how much do you retain then right?

16:56 Brenda Erickson

Yes.

16:58 Ryan Orrock

So if I understand correctly and you are creating this, you weren't in the halls of academia or submit the mountain top, but you are working with children everyday.

17:08 Brenda Erickson

Yes.

17:09 Ryan Orrock

And perhaps your own children as well.

17:11 Brenda Erickson

Yes.

17:12 Ryan Orrock

Now.

17:13 Brenda Erickson

Yes.

17:14 Ryan Orrock

And you are seeing how they response to the world, how they like to touch the world and connect to the world and I mean, this is something that we're complaining about a little bit as adults and you know, we're saying the children the children go out they do not do, but we created a very sort of hermetic filled off theoretical world in some ways that disconnects us from the things that we can touch and smell and taste and things like that. Would you agree?

17:42 Brenda Erickson

Right. I would, I would even get back to the previous encounter you had with Steven and his systems designers' conversation and say that this varies the system. I mean, there really is a natural system in development of a child and they need to be looked at and observed and the decisions that are made or needed to be made for the three split level not the six shift level and when you do that you will have a three dimensional world and you will be watching the natural unfolding of a child and playing to the system as opposed to resisting it. (Crosstalk) ...against it.

18:27 Ryan Orrock

When you say three point system you mean a claim to the need to the smaller person is that what that mean?

18:32 Brenda Erickson

Yes I do. I mean _18:33_ yeah.

18:35 Ryan Orrock

Okay.

18:36 Brenda Erickson

Most of excisions are made it so cheap. You know they made by adults and they made about children and not from children.

18:45 Ryan Orrock

You know one of the, I don't know do you know NVC, non-violent communication?

18:52 Brenda Erickson

Yes.

18:53 Ryan Orrock

Yeah one of these things that one thing that was very important for me to learn is that we look at things from our concept to what's right and was right for you know, a 30-year-old adult or a 40-year-old adult maybe is a bit different than what a 2-year-old or 1-year-old needs.

19:09 Brenda Erickson

Right.

19:10 Ryan Orrock

One question, when you are teaching adult literacy, will this be also useful or not so much?

19:16 Brenda Erickson

Oh we do. We absolutely use it for the international rescue committee uses Souns in Atlanta, because it is about the hand moving things around quickly and not having to learn letter formation. Well, okay these are the actual tools sound with the tools of the Souns program. You can become a very effective parent without us, but when you are dealing with refugees, you are dealing with people who need to be able to explore the language they are learning quickly and they could direct link between the sound and the symbol and so they can move this letters around these symbols around and write words without having to also think about the formation of the letter, which is a triangle and a direct line is much easier and so it has been very successful with adult literacy because it is a direct link, it is not a white board. It is moving your body and it is how you get your body involved and you do not have anything but one thing, I have a symbol, I have sound, I can connected those two and I can build the world. It is easier and more successful and more worrying for the first time doing the work.

20:38 Ryan Orrock

Right, as far as they are learning.

20:40 Brenda Erickson

Yeah.

20:41 Ryan Orrock

Okay so, as you started to do this, I just want to see if we can put a narrative together a little bit so you saw that the children love touching, you saw they love the reality so then what did you do? Did you start making letters out of play dough or did you start cutting them out? How these begin?

20:58 Brenda Erickson

This began on the back burner of my brain for about two decades.

21:01 Ryan Orrock

Oh really? Okay.

21:04 Brenda Erickson

No. I had the plan, I had the templates, I had everything ready and my life follows one footstep after the other. I always looking at an open door and when they come, I go through it and that's how you and I are sitting and talking right now, but in anyway, I knew what they needed. I had three children. I raised my three children and I run a school. I had to wake till I had the time to put this into place and I had to question it and you know, work it until I knew it was something that I was compelled to do. When you know something, it is so simple as here is a symbol and here is a child and all they want to know is what that symbol does. There is not much between those two points. We did _22:06_ with by the way we did in first in _22:08_ (crosstalk). Okay, we put them in maple we send them into four people one hour at the most _22:16_ and an hour to do each letter and we did those and could not distribute them at you know at any gap because we could not produce enough something, the kids in the school participated the interactive __22:31__ and our school has an interaction club and they interact students participated in this. They have trained with this. We did the work at the libraries. We did the work wherever we could go where there is a child that was willing to learn and a family that was willing to learn and then united way in Atlanta _22:54_ to do the materials, the letters and nylon sheets in Georgia and at that point we realized, oh my goodness we can put _23:06_on these. So, we made a contact with the school _23:11_ and we were guided by a graduation coach there as to which particular Braille size etc that we should put on them and it has just been wonderful the whole, every steps has been magical, but the nylon is wonderful because you can put it and you can wash it. In amount of a child in a childcare center and it can be washed would is not so safe to have in a group of children. It breaks too.

23:48 Ryan Orrock

Right. Just the people can understand the timeline a little bit. When did you guys start making the wood, molds or really starting program? How long go with that?

24:00 Brenda Erickson

2006.

24:01 Ryan Orrock

2006. Okay, so that's why it is really got going.

24:05 Brenda Erickson

Right. The book was written and published in 2000 it was being written in 2005 it may has been sent away in 2005 that it was not really active until 2006 and 2007. We were in South Africa in -- my husband is in South Africa. So, that is how a visit led me to falling in love with this small school which led, it is just unfolded in to the situation we have now with thousands of children in South Africa. _24:36_ and the townships behind management.

24:42 Ryan Orrock

What's it that you are referring to...

24:44 Brenda Erickson

Hold on just the guy _24:44_ just a little guy that goes with the program.

24:48 Ryan Orrock

Okay so this is in Amazon something some people have to contact is to get right?

24:52 Brenda Erickson

Yes, it is on the website.

24:55 Ryan Orrock

Okay. Alright. Can you tell me a couple of stories or examples of children whose lives have changed of their experience using Souns?

25:07 Brenda Erickson

That will be hard since it is not out there along and that's for much for happen except that I can tell you that actually 3- and 4-year-old children that are so excited because they are reading and what happen Ryan is that, this is to be watched, but when the child learns to read, learns the sounds early, learns the tools of their printed language early. It leads them into reading early and by starting to read early, they become interested in information early and comprehending happens earlier and that's what we're seeing. It is not like I design that, it is just by watching the children I mean when 8-year-olds, 7-year-olds, 6-year-olds and 5-year-olds are reading books that are chapter books and choosing to read them again and again, I can tell you everything going on in that book with some pleased commitment to reading and love of reading and that's what we see with the kids in one situation to speak to the importance of early intervention or early introduction I think is where I would put it. We have three children that we decided to use an instrument on to see how they compared and two of those three children were Souns children and they were aged 4 years old and they were from very, very stimulating families so they were equal socioeconomically and environmentally and the two of the children that were Souns children could sound out all of three and four letter words on this evaluation and the third child could not sound on anything, however that each of those children knew their a-b-c's and in either sounds that most parents today think that a child knows, the most sound and the letter name that they are well alarmed to go in the kindergarten. But it is not having relationship with prints. It is not having a relationship with the words they built, that's how this missing for those children. It is such a dramatic picture, such a dramatic difference in these three tasks so, but the reading is what we see. We're seeing difference in a way the child understands what they are doing and what is happening with prints English language.

28:17 Ryan Orrock

So children are late learning to read literally years earlier.

28:22 Brenda Erickson

Oh yeah, but without any treasure, without school. I will give you two words. One academic set, this child have never seen anything so effortless and the other one set it is seamless, they will write into reading and its seamless. That's the difference if you start early and let it happen instrumentally and naturally and the child is the warrior. They want to do no more than to acclimate themselves to this world.

29:04 Ryan Orrock

I don't.... Go ahead.

29:07 Brenda Erickson

Well, I'm just going to say, just put yourself in the bed sheet of a car, in a car sheet in a car and you are a 2-year-old okay.

29:14 Ryan Orrock

Alright.

29:15 Brenda Erickson

And you are maybe 2-1/2 to 3 and you are at the stop sign. Well that stop sign is the most exciting thing in the world as you know what this is.

29:24 Ryan Orrock

Aha.

29:25 Brenda Erickson

And in next time your around as not much later you know what it is and then on a little later you know what up is and then you might know what in ah is and then one day you are sitting in that hard seat and you ear is developmentally ready and you hear stop and you know you're a reader and no one has taken charge of you and thought you to read then what you have actually experienced yourselves and you stimulated yourself and discovered yourself that is really yours and so that child is empowered. In the minute you do that by the way they are, they say it's a flash fire. That's what we see, not as empirical, that's what we see.

30:16 Ryan Orrock

Alright.

30:17 Brenda Erickson

The only time it doesn't work is when you have a parent, who is wanting to use the material to force early reading that will never work anyway with any problem, it just doesn't work. The child's little __30:31__ everything off it is like no. So that's the only chance. This is a wonderful program for special needs children by the way children with dyslexia, etc. If you have the materials, but a point of...yeah, oh yeah Down syndrome, autistic or dyslexic children are just remarkable stories to share, yes. You can go on our Souns talk blog and read much of the little detail that you might want, you know the story you might want to know.

31:06 Ryan Orrock

Right, well let me...

31:07 Brenda Erickson

It caused the child to talk a lot either.

31:10 Ryan Orrock

Sound okay, I'm hoping this is linked on your main website too?

31:14 Brenda Erickson

Yes, I say it is Souns.org. It is linked from there, yes.

31:20 Ryan Orrock

Okay, so I just want to tell everyone. One more time, if you're joining us now or if you haven't a headache yet. That you can go and find out more about what Brenda describing to us at souns.org, so it was like sound, but without the d, right?

31:42 Brenda Erickson

Right, because it is not about spelling, it's about expression.

31:46 Ryan Orrock

Souns.org and then you can find the links and the resources and contact her and get more information about using this. Either with your children or with your school district or wherever special needs children, adult literacy and basically anyone who needs to learn to read or can't learn to read.

32:07 Brenda Erickson

Right, in any language that uses lot __32:09__ for that.

32:12 Ryan Orrock

Right, we will get there in just a second, I have a few questions about that.

32:14 Brenda Erickson

Okay.

32:15 Ryan Orrock

I wanted to -- I am glad you said that because I remember I don't know if many people learn or remember learning to read, but I remember learning to read and I remember that before like you're looking at all of this stuff in the world, all these signs and you know that there is some meaning there, but it's kind of like your an outsider and it is almost like has being hidden from you or encoded and you're kind of curious, but I was very curious. What is it? What they are always and I remember at the point where then I could read things it was like welcome to the club now you're part of the world and I can't imagine like you are talking about 40% of third graders.

33:00 Brenda Erickson

No, you know almost 38. Almost 38, it is 37 plus.

33:03 Ryan Orrock

Okay, so rounded off 40%, 38%. I don't have that experience even in third grade and I mean that's even I don't know what statistics about adult and literacy are, but there is obviously many adults who are still aren't part of that world right?

33:24 Brenda Erickson

I would expect sure globally.

33:27 Ryan Orrock

Oh sorry.

33:28 Brenda Erickson

I said globally for sure.

33:32 Ryan Orrock

Right, yeah so I mean it was a magical experience for me to get there and also I just spent three months in the Ukraine, in a Russian speaking country and they have the Cyrillic alphabet there, right?

33:48 Brenda Erickson

Yes.

33:49 Ryan Orrock

And so it was funny because the experience that you just had I thought this sign that had like to a handle bar shape and then it look like tone afterwards and then as long I started to learn the alphabet there. All of a sudden at some point, I said wait that's a stop and I have the exact experience that a two year old has in Russian about two months ago, but the funny thing is defines are white, so I didn't have the idea and they are rectangular. So I didn't have the feeling you know I didn't have the idea that they could use stop sign, but it was the exact same thing that you had and I thought of this program was myself I guess. I was taking a different letter and a different sound. You know, as time and on and then all of a sudden sometimes you just see that is the word computer written in Cyrillic and then you recognize the word even though you don't speak that language because it similar to what you already know.

34:48 Brenda Erickson

Right, so that's very empowering.

34:51 Ryan Orrock

Right, all of a sudden I wasn't this foreigner who you know could not do anything in the language and now I could start to be part of it. Be part of this club so to speak. Okay, I know exactly what you are talking about, I have experienced it recently, but before we get to some of the other things we wanted to talk about. Yeah, let's talk a little bit about the various languages and cultures. Now, you said anyone who used a Latin alphabet. Can you go onto that a little bit more? Well languages have been used or how does that work?

35:30 Brenda Erickson

Well in South Africa, you have eleven official languages as an example that I have watch this walk with him for the last three or four years. Eleven official languages, none of which I speak except English and English is one of the languages, but in South Africa, the children are expected to be educated in their home language until about the nine year old child, third grade and so you have in one school possibly as we look classroom as studio classroom. That's the picture in education in South Africa no matter where you are in the southern part of the country you have quota and you have English and you have Africans, etc. It is very complicated and each of these languages uses the Latin alphabet and the only difference, there is no actual difference. You have the idea of pointing to a symbol and saying this is for instance the "I" what we called the name "I" would be an "E" and the majority of these languages and English but in all the rest of them is "E". That's it, you just make that association with "E" and you make use of association "O" and you make the use of association "F" with "F" etc. You only give the symbol, the sounds of the language the child is going to read and...

37:03 Ryan Orrock

That actually dealing with most of them, the reading and alright aha.

37:07 Brenda Erickson

It's about what they are going to... If you have a family who is bilingual and they're raising there children and __37:11__ dealing with two languages or three then you make your decision for the symbols based on what they will read. They will become bilingual or multilingual because of the language spoken and many people don't stop to take that there is a dramatic difference, similar difference between language and literacy. Literacy is __37:38__ tools and languages spoken and so they become multilingual or bilingual, but the parent it needs to be the language that child was going to school or reading them, but in this schools we use Souns for all of the different languages which is be at the sound of the letter that the child has in their home language. So we will work for German or Spanish or any other languages. We just give the sound of the letter that the child has in there home language. So we will work for German or Spanish or any other languages mm is mm locally most of those letters are exactly the same in all of those __38:13__ languages.

38:14 Ryan Orrock

Right and virtually every language hhmmm.

38:17 Brenda Erickson

Right, right. So you have very, very queue. Even the clicks in Xhosa are link or letters Q and X and Z are clicks and so they taken out. They still have the key, so they still had a sound. It had been very smart. They adapted with their language through our alphabet which everybody. I mean that was resulted that anyway.

38:46 Ryan Orrock

Live me that, we brought that to Africa so to speak.

38:48 Brenda Erickson

Right, right.

38:52 Ryan Orrock

Okay, if it is alright we'd like to take a little break and when we continue we will go deeper into the Souns system with Brenda and Steven, so stick with us.

41:45 Ryan Orrock

Hello everyone, welcome back again to Doversity Radio with the Imagine Rural Development Initiative. Steven Putter and I are talking to Brenda Erickson today about Souns early childhood and as we learnt literacy program that can be used with many, many different ages and languages not just for early childhood. So you're still with us Brenda?

42:16 Brenda Erickson

Ah yeah, yeah.

42:18 Ryan Orrock

Okay, well Steven wanted to make a point so Steven can you talk a little bit about what it was that impressed you?

42:26 Steven Putter

I brought up something that was very interesting and you said you know it doesn't work if it's forced. If you are going to use the Souns system and to prove that your child can read at the age of four. It will not work. What was interesting about that comment to me was you know I look at my own experience of school and I look at the experience of the children today that is in school and one of the fundamental mistakes in education today is that it is a force system. If you can't do that you will never be success in your life. You have to do this to be a success. You have to pass this exam. You have to get a certain standard, otherwise you won't be successful. Otherwise, you are actually made out to be something less successful and they use a field-based model to actually pressurize children into learning and we are wondering why grades are keep on falling and children are doing worse, and worse, and worse in school. Now, when we started actually building the model to be used in what his age. We will looking for the most eloquent inviting system to bring together in order to create the school environment and the way that we will present education in what is age and what we have come up with is that we want to take the force out of education and replace it with curiosity.

44:31 Brenda Erickson

Lovely.

44:32 Steven Putter

Because if you bring curiosity into it and tactile kinesthetic learning. In other words, what sound is doing we actually taking into primary and secondary education by actually connecting what they learned to the actual environment if a child is learning by __44:57__ is out in nature if his learning map is building a tree house. If he is building map he is actually designing an actual pond. It is bringing life back into education, bringing touch, smell, taste, the sensory experience into relation with curiosity of the child naturally. Children, they are sponges, you add curiosity to a child and you will see things like attention deficit disorder just does appear. So it is keeping that model of one thing to learn, one thing to discover right through the educational experience. It is not necessary to lose the same educational experience. As far as I am concerned, this is just about design and they actually taking the bold steps to actually say you know we can design differently, we can design places of curiosity and sense of wonder for children to actually learn the things that they are learning now in any case. In our model, we are not even changing their curriculum.

46:25 Steven Putter

We are keeping the normal English curriculum, what we are saying is just we have going to change the way the children actually engage with material that needs to be learnt for that curriculum and we are going to actually apply in that curiosity in life itself. Because forceful education hasn't worked.

46:48 Ryan Orrock

And applying more drugs to it or you know, tighter or medal detector sets at school. These are not the way exam with more force, more force is in moving in the right direction.

47:01 Steven Putter

Definitely not.

47:03 Brenda Erickson

Well, I can add I don't think we can eliminate all special needs, real special needs diagnosed or you know or situations, but I do think that there are many of the differences in children that are more satisfied in a three dimensional world, no, no, no two dimensional one and in many ways, when you start very late such as 5, with the child and you want to teach them the skill of reading and writing, which is the most difficult skill they will set a skill. So whatever learned in life and probably the most consequential and you want to do it between 5 and 6 and 7. You are giving them less time than they have had in their life to learn how to dress and eat by themselves and yet we ask so much. We maybe are actually creating some of our own special needs situation with our children or learning disabilities anyway. It is something I have thought about and I have watched and I wonder about. Too much, too tasks, the brains, you know it takes a lot to learn something as difficult as really in writing and it is a man made skill and not hard one well its worth.

48:32 Ryan Orrock

Yeah, I heard one thing call us. This is something like learning the skills are equivalent for none pianist learning, a difficult piano can share or something like that.

48:42 Brenda Erickson

Yes.

48:43 Ryan Orrock

Something that will take thousands and thousands of hours to do.

48:47 Brenda Erickson

Yes exactly. So we putted all in such a small span of time when it is not even the most vibrant time for the brain to learn. The image that was taken for me by Dr. Cool was that the brain is like a computer from __49:08__ speaking of letter to right now without a printer. So they are entering software all the time. Children are entering, there is never a moment when the brain is not learning or something. It has no printers so I don't think because they don't see anything. We don't think anything is happening and the most is happening. It is a greatest learning term in the child life from the time of __49:35__ from the time they are 3 years old and then they start teaching.

49:43 Ryan Orrock

So we're holding them back or are not providing one of the resources that they need and I think one thing is I mean shoulder and a lot of children are just naturally curious when they see letters and language. They are asking questions and if they get the answer well. You will find it out on school. Why are we providing them with that and then later pushing them to do what we've been holding or most keeping away from them. Is that right?

50:09 Brenda Erickson

Well, parents will tell them that there are As and Bs and Cs, and the day that anyone can tell me how teaching a child ABC teaches them to read. I would love that conversation or love to hear that argument. There isn't anything we do that encoding or decoding that has to do with the names and the letters, it is all based on letter sounds.

50:36 Steven Putter

Phonetic context of speech.

50:37 Brenda Erickson

Yeah, the phonetic that's right. And we are not hearing that information to the child. We are giving them a picture of the shovel, we are not giving them the shovel.

50:47 Ryan Orrock

Would it be okay if we went through the system a little bit and we discuss -- then got clearer from me because I still have a few questions exactly what the components are so that someone could may be even do this for themselves. Would that be alright?

51:07 Brenda Erickson

When you say components, now if you don't have the Souns materials, then what you would do well, go to the website look at the Souns resources, look at the tracking sheet so you can see the order. The book is online as well. We've done everything online for free. The only things that are not free are the materials themselves which one can still do sounds without the materials. It doesn't eliminate the hand-brain connection. But build, drawing them in the sand, the greatest chalkboard in the world is ground, the rock.

51:49 Ryan Orrock

Right.

51:50 Brenda Erickson

Go outside and play. Do things. Don't be afraid just to engage the body in drawing and writing etc. -- and the letters is on the website and it is based on contrast, the sound and shape. So it's not ABC. The first sound is aah or ah the next is mm etc. for a very, very good reasons which are explained. And if you have the materials, it's wonderful. The materials should be in the classroom, the child can then handle and feel that the real learning happens next with the engagement with the environment wanting to finding circles fill in build and draw. That's how the child learns and is calling at the sounds. It is the aah-th-mm machine. If you understand what I am saying.

53:00 Ryan Orrock

The what machine?

53:03 Brenda Erickson

When you go to aah-th-mm machine.

53:05 Ryan Orrock

Yeah. Aah, aah, okay.

53:07 Brenda Erickson

Okay.

53:08 Ryan Orrock

Right.

53:09 Brenda Erickson

Then you really are understanding what the child is having to learn.

53:15 Ryan Orrock

So first of all, I mean the step is to have some representation of the letter, it doesn't have the materials that you have.

53:20 Brenda Erickson

Yeah. Lower case. Lower case only.

53:22 Ryan Orrock

Lower case. Okay. Get the lower case vowel.

53:24 Brenda Erickson

That if you look at the sentence there is only one capital.

53:28 Ryan Orrock

There is only one capital.

53:29 Brenda Erickson

Right.

53:30 Ryan Orrock

Okay. Good. And then you identify what is the sound of the letter rather than the name?

53:37 Brenda Erickson

Right. And you go very slowly may be three or four at a time and that's it. And that when the child actually points to and says, oh that's it look there is an "ah" or there is a "mm" you don't add anymore. It doesn't mean you hide from answering the child's question, but you just don't put a burden on the child from learning more than four at a time.

54:01 Ryan Orrock

Yeah. The curiosity of the child is naturally there when you start solving an information and it turns around very quickly, isn't it?

54:07 Brenda Erickson

Yes, it does. There -- it's done. We had one mom who ordered the set of Souns for the child's birthday and the child has gave her the "ah". He played with the "ah" for about an hour, it was gone. Two days later, she couldn't find it and she finally sat down with her child and she said, you know I think I've lost your "ah". He said oh! He sits right over to the box and opens it up where he had put this -- he is an 18-month-old -- and got the box where he had put the "ah" the first hour she had given it to him. That's how fast it is.

54:46 Ryan Orrock

So the identification is quick.

54:49 Brenda Erickson

It's very quick.

54:51 Ryan Orrock

So then once we have the lower case letters, we have the identification of the sounds clear for us as an adult, for example the C or the K you're only using one of those right?

55:02 Brenda Erickson

We are using those, but it is a "kuh". They both make a sound "kuh".

55:05 Ryan Orrock

They both make "kuh". Okay, initially.

55:07 Brenda Erickson

Yeah. That's it.

55:09 Ryan Orrock

And then you are having a play session with the letters and you may be have four of them your doing at once, is that what I understood or?

55:16 Brenda Erickson

It depends on the age of the child. If it is an -18-month-old, it could be four letters. If it is 12-month-old it could be three, "ah", "mm" and "ss". The A, M and S.

55:26 Ryan Orrock

Okay. And then you have the order that is recommended in the book in which you go through each sound with the child or children.

55:34 Brenda Erickson

Right.

55:36 Ryan Orrock

Okay. Okay. I think that's -- or with whoever is learning actually.

55:38 Brenda Erickson

Yeah. That's right. And whatever language -- right.

55:44 Ryan Orrock

Could you talk may be a little bit about special needs, dyslexia, this type of experience with their children. Does the system change at all? What do you have to be aware of?

55:56 Brenda Erickson

It doesn't. The sequence does not change. The introduction doesn't change. The rate of progress might change, but for -- if you have a child who is 0 to 3, who has not yet been diagnosed with the special needs which is very likely, these materials, the Souns materials would be the very tool they would need in order to preventative for any of the special needs such as dyslexia. If it is a letter sound association issue, the actual object or the actual letter symbol with the sound that they have so much trouble with. And we have a Down syndrome child that started the program and by the time he was 5, he was reading three to four letter words. When he was 3, he was standing in line at the airport and his parents were busy getting their ticket and checking in luggage and there was a line and the little boy was standing there pointing to the ticket and all ticket on the suitcase and he was sounding out each of the letters and the person behind them tap the mom on the shoulder and said, "Do you see what your child is doing?" And it was a Down syndrome baby. So this is what happens when you get into that early window of learning. When it's the most vibrant and the brain is the most receptive and it just makes such tremendous difference. An autistic child which is on the -- one child which is on the blog by the way, Asia had -- was a Souns child and he started Souns probably between 12 months and 2 years he was doing this.

57:59 Brenda Erickson

He wasn't diagnosed with autism until he was 3 and the interesting part for Asia is he developed typically through the Souns program with his reading and writing. He could not write with his hand, but he learned to write with a computer keyboard because he didn't have the control for handwriting that he was an early reader. And most autistic children will memorize great big words. They were quick minded and -- but those words don't have any connection to them. They're just like something you put in your kitchen drawer, you know, used to take your stuff there. But with the Souns program, he developed -- typically, he did not ever demonstrate anything different except that he couldn't form the letters. When he wanted to write, it was not something he found easy to do.

59:06 Ryan Orrock

So if I've understood this correctly, are you saying that you can cure or prevent something like that.

59:11 Brenda Erickson

No. I don't say that. I don't say cure. I said intervention. It does provide a tool that would make it less challenging for the child. It is the very tool that they would have need it and they will be given later, but it getting at the time which when they are most responsive to it.

59:31 Ryan Orrock

So for dyslexics and things, this can make a difference. Yes?

59:35 Brenda Erickson

Yes, very definitely. We have several testimonies on that. Yes.

59:46 Ryan Orrock

Wow! Well this needs to be everywhere.

59:51 Brenda Erickson

Well, Patricia Wolfe who is an International Consultant for Education had said that every child should have this program and I understand that she had a dyslexic child and she knows. She said this would have made all the difference in the world for this child. Yes. Every child should at least be given the real tools of prints, which is the sound of the symbol so that they then use it. Yes?

1:00:24 Ryan Orrock

I've heard of something called whole language.

1:00:30 Brenda Erickson

Yes?

1:00:31 Ryan Orrock

Well, what's your take on that?

1:00:33 Brenda Erickson

I think that all the pieces of design out there probably have a value. It is about the timing. Okay? It is about the timing. If the child had the tools of prints, and were empowered with the tools of prints, whole language will probably be a very vibrant experience for a child. But as I said teaching to read tool, the only thing I can say is we've invested a tremendous amount of money and a tremendous amount of manpower in this country towards addressing reading issues and we are freeze in that line for decades so something is not working and...

1:01:28 Ryan Orrock

Steven -- oh sorry, go ahead.

1:01:30 Brenda Erickson

No, go on. That's all.

1:01:32 Ryan Orrock

Something is not working that -- as we continue on the educational path, Steven talks about self-sustainability. It is obvious that something needs a change. Steven, do you have comments or questions?

1:01:47 Steven Putter

Yes. When we speak about intervention and the Souns program is not really an intervention program although it can be for dyslexia and things like that during an enhancement of natural talent process, the way that I see it it's bringing out that natural capabilities at the right time in children that always talk about Steven's world. In Steven's world, Steven can get its way, the sounds methodology will be given to grade 6 to 12s. Just imagine, if we can actually educate our parents to be -- to actually implement Souns with their children, just imagine for a moment what impact that can have over a very short period of time, you are looking at 10 or 15 years and you will said with whole generations that this actually literate at the time that are 6 or 7 years old. We have the capabilities. We have the know how. There is the success stories. It is about implementing and integrating into a system that will serve the whole of humanity. Out of all the early childhood systems that I have looked at to be implemented on what has edged in their own educational system, Souns can be such a powerful tool if given to young parents.

1:03:49 Steven Putter

It is something that I think humanity cannot -- it is one of the things that we should really look at and say that's how we can make a difference. How do we implement it? And actually giving the sounds methodology as part of the curriculum in secondary school which is definitely something that will happen on world's edge, because it is the education of the young parents that actually will flow into the next generation. So hopefully, I can twist the _01:04:24_ on to make this work and will be -- fears and worry next seeing that we can implement this for young parents in secondary schools. I just think it is too important not to do.

1:04:45 Brenda Erickson

Well, I want to make a comment. The bottom line of all of this is that we have no trouble teaching a child shoe because we say everyday of their life, in our young life, let's put your shoes off. That is how they learn shoe. And when they go a toy store or they go outside and they hand him a stick or they hand them a ball, they learn so quickly. When the world has figured out that all you have to do for literacy, for children is to incorporate the letter sound into that child's life in a natural incremental fun way on a regular basis from the time they are paying attention to ball. It is not going to be an issue, it will be as natural as learning to dress or if they will learn to read. It is not going to be a course in school. Any longer than dressing yourself is a course in school or seeing yourself is a course in school. It just doesn't have to be anymore than natural and because those children are the warriors. They are the ones that have. The force within themselves, the desire, the curiosity because I love that word and they have that and the absolute need to survive in the world they were born into. They will do, they will built with those tools. We are just part of giving it to them. We've been told to have to go to school. It's heartbreaking.

1:06:40 Ryan Orrock

Well Brenda, do you have final comments, messages for the world, for the people about the system?

1:06:52 Brenda Erickson

I think that was it.

1:06:55 Ryan Orrock

Well I was figuring it out, I just think exactly right. So anything else, Steven?

1:07:03 Steven Putter

No. You know, I think everything that needed to be said was said and we almost ahead of time because of the simplicity or the sure beauty and simplicity. We are not talking about rocket science here. It is not something that is unachievable. It is something that is achievable and it is something that can change the world of children. Just imagine for a moment going to school on the first day, it is a traumatic experience. I have bailed out -- I think first break I bailed out. My older sister had to come and fetch me because I said I had enough of this. But imagine taking this trace of reading out of early school, out of grade 1, grade 2, grade 3, just that pleasure of being able to read. Just remove that and imagine the experience not only of the child, but of the teacher. Turn this around and look at the experience from the teacher's sight that it is actually working with applause that can actually read by the time that they get in school. And there is another point that makes sounds important, it is not just for the child it's also for the teacher.

1:08:36 Ryan Orrock

And the real learning can happen.

1:08:39 Steven Putter

It is the real learning can happen.

1:08:41 Ryan Orrock

Or the rest is the learning yeah?

1:08:43 Brenda Erickson

Comprehension is really were the next battle is. And if you start early and that we've seen that it really plays out much, much better.

1:08:52 Ryan Orrock

The foundation. Yeah.

1:08:54 Brenda Erickson

Yeah. Yeah. If a child's mind is allowed to idle, it will become a behavior issue and it can't catch up and we need to have that child's mind, given the children needs so it can involve the way it has the ability to involve. Yes, Steven?

1:09:15 Steven Putter

That is so true and how many behavior issues all we have seen. In the last couple of months, it was all the story about 6 years old being put in handcuffs from his peers in school and things like that and we have to look at the burden that we've place on the children when they come to school and I am not saying that we have to teach them less, what I am saying is that I agree with __1:09:51__ of that. Learning should took place in the time which is most conducive for the child to learn. If a child comes to school and he can be stimulated to have educational material, because you already has got the ability to read and a lot of those frustrations will actually become less in an environment where teacher has to deal with 20 or 30, in certain countries up to 45 or 50 children. Time to get the kids to read by repetition and trying to actually at the same time give them information, the actual subjects that has to be learnt. It is you expecting a lot from a child that has been trying to learn something outside the optimal period of learning and does use the other aspect that make sound for me very, very important.

1:10:56 Ryan Orrock

Well, this conversation -- I am not saying the effect for me has been an increase of hope to feel like there is a solution. The solution isn't that difficult. It already is working in many places and the difference that they are already making and will continue to make in this world as it's implemented. Yeah. The world is little brighter now. So thank you for that Brenda.

1:11:26 Brenda Erickson

Welcome. It is my pleasure actually.

1:11:29 Ryan Orrock

Can you share with our listeners where they can get more information about this or contact you.

1:11:35 Brenda Erickson

Alright. This is the website obviously it is souns.org. I have my cell phone number on that website. I have email address on that website. Everything we have written is on that website. It is a nonprofit. There isn't -- anyone interested in making money, we just have to make sure we don't bleed ourselves to death financially, but we just want to change things for children because it is the only way we will have peace in this world. It is if the child is not a victim and they can make important decisions. So please contact us.

1:12:19 Ryan Orrock

Absolutely.

1:12:20 Brenda Erickson

And at Twitter. I love Twitter. We are all here because of Twitter. At _1:12:25_, schooling I work with is the home of this program and I am a Rotarian so much of the work I do is with two __1:12:37__, which I am very grateful for. And anyway, we would do whatever we can do if there is a child involved. Thank you for the time.

1:12:50 Ryan Orrock

And I just like to add this some wonderful YouTube videos also linked from the site where you see teachers actually teaching and working with very young children in this program. So if you think, oh I couldn't do this or how would I do this, you can actually get examples of that on the site. I thought that was brilliant.

1:13:10 Brenda Erickson

The Souns Whitepaper. Souns Whitepaper on the left column is very important to read. It is the argument for it.

1:13:18 Ryan Orrock

Right.

1:13:19 Brenda Erickson

Okay.

1:13:20 Ryan Orrock

I also read that and that is excellent and there is an Africa version and there is a standard version. Alright. Well, thank you Brenda and all the best with your work and we look forward to hearing how Souns goes forward in the future and implementing that and imagine them the project.

1:13:41 Brenda Erickson

Great. You too. I am very excited about that. Thank you Ryan.

1:13:44 Ryan Orrock

Alright. Well, music has been provided by Thom Jayne with kind permission from his album The Forgotten Conquest. Thank you everyone for listening and we will see you Tuesday at 10 o'clock Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern, or 7 p.m. Zambia time, for our next episode of Doversity Radio. Bye-bye.

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