Mike Moh

“Teachers default to practices that they experienced themselves as a student,” explains Heather Kenny, President of Unleashed Innovation, Inc. and Creator of Sounder & Friends™. Educator turned entrepreneur, Heather has a deep understanding of the power of literacy to inform one’s life trajectory. Unfortunately, progress is quite slow in the educational world surrounding evidence-based practices; instead, new teachers tend to revert back to the strategies that they encountered as students, which are oftentimes out-of-date and not nearly as effective as newer models.

Heather first began to develop her passion for literacy as a kindergarten teacher at an overcrowded elementary school. In this role, she quickly realized that the most important gift she could give her students was the gift of literacy. One of Heather’s coworkers at the time learned about the concept of phonemic awareness, which is the ability to hear and play with individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Heather began brainstorming ways she could introduce a great focus on phonemic awareness into her classroom to lay the groundwork for her students’ future reading instruction.

Fast forward to 2021, Heather has now created an engaging and entertaining way for kids to develop their phonemic awareness in the form of Sounder & Friends™, an educational adventure show. Tune into this week’s episode of Running Into the Fog for a conversation with Heather about literacy, phonemic awareness and her journey from educator to entrepreneur.


• “If children aren’t entertained, then they’re not going to want to watch it again. And if we don’t have their attention, then we can’t teach them anything.” (28:16-28:22)

• “Ours is a highly literate society, and in order to have access and to be considered a full-fledged, contributing, respected member of that society, you have to be literate. Otherwise, there’s this incredible sense of shame that you carry around with you. What learners tend to do is they tend to internalize it…and as a result, there’s a sense of overwhelming shame… So, if you can imagine what that’s like to go through your entire life, feeling this sense of shame, feeling like there’s this terrible secret that you can’t let anybody in on.” (34:22-35:23)

• “If we can develop these skills, and we can make parents and teachers aware of how important it is that they develop proficiency early on, then children’s brains will be primed for reading by the time they get to first grade, kindergarten even, when reading instruction really begins in earnest.” (40:27-40:43)

• “Phonemic awareness is particularly relevant to children who are at risk for experiencing reading difficulties. And children in that adoptive category definitely fall into that category as at risk.” (46:25-46:39)

• “If a child is floundering, we should be stepping in and giving them supports. If they’re not able to do it on their own, that means they don’t have the right support structure in place. So either the task is far too difficult or we’re not providing the right kinds of supports.” (49:34-49:46)


Connect with Unleashed Innovation:

• Website: https://www.unleashed-innovation.com/

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/unleashed-innovation/

• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UnleashedInnovation/

• Twitter: https://twitter.com/unleashed_inno

• Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/unleashed_innovation/

Connect with Sounder & Friends™:

• Store: https://store.sounderandfriends.com/

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/70050966/admin/

• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SounderFriends/

• Twitter: https://twitter.com/friendssounder

• Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sounder_and_friends/

• TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@sounder_and_friends

• Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEhiYc9ALWque3nVTQhvmHw


Arik JohnsonLinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/arikjohnson/ 

Derek JohnsonLinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/derek-johnson-cfa-190893/