Structured Literacy: A New Term to Unify Us and Sell What We Do

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July 2014

By Hal Malchow

At its July 1st meeting, the IDA Board of Directors made a landmark decision designed to help market our approach to reading instruction.  The board chose a name that would encompass all approaches to reading instruction that conform to IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards. That name is “Structured Literacy.”

Today, our successful approach to reading instruction goes by many names: Orton Gillingham, Multi-Sensory, Explicit Phonics. In many schools and districts, our approach is referred to by the name of the organization training teachers. So in Houston, it may be known as “Neuhaus.” In New York or Los Angeles, it may be referred to as “Wilson.”

A Name: First Step in Building a Brand

If we want school districts to adopt our approach, we need a name that brings together our successes. We need one name that refers to the many programs that teach reading in the same way. A name is the first and essential step to building a brand.

In making this decision, the IDA Board considered input from many sources. To begin the process, we reached out to 300 professional members and asked them to suggest names. Based upon that input, we prepared a list of ten names and asked more than 700 professionals to select the three they most preferred. After that input, we chose the three names that had the most support and polled both parents and teachers. Taking all of that input into consideration, we conducted a long discussion of the merits of each choice at our April board meeting.

The term “Structured Literacy” is not designed to replace Orton Gillingham, Multi-Sensory or other terms in common use. It is an umbrella term designed to describe all of the programs that teach reading in essentially the same way.

The Vote: Unanimous

Finally, in a unanimous vote, the board chose “Structured Literacy” at a meeting on July  1st.

The term “Structured Literacy” is not designed to replace Orton Gillingham, Multi-Sensory, or other terms in common use. It is an umbrella term designed to describe all of the programs that teach reading in essentially the same way. In our marketing, this term will help us simplify our message and connect our successes. “Structured Literacy” will help us sell what we do so well.

I want to thank the hundreds of professionals who provided input in this process. I also want to thank our board for reaching a decision that will help us sell what we do, bring best practices into more classrooms, deliver teachers qualified to instruct a student with dyslexia, and raise reading skills for all students as well.

Hal Malchow is a successful businessman and political consultant who has provided fundraising services for groups like the American Red Cross, the Democratic National Committee, the US Olympic committee and many others. He has worked for six presidential candidates. Hal co-authored of The Sword of Darrow, a young adult fantasy novel, with his then eight-year old dyslexic son, Alex. Through that association Hal joined the IDA Board in 2011 and is now the President of IDA.

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