Beth Slingerland was a general-ed classroom teacher at Punahou School in Honolulu, HI, during the 1930s. While teaching at this exclusive private school, she was assigned a group of children who – despite social, economic, and cultural advantages – did not respond to available classroom methods of reading instruction.
After hearing about the work of Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham and their groundbreaking approach to structured literacy, Slingerland worked for years in conjunction with Gillingham to explore neurological principles, basic instructional components, and reading disabilities. Over time, Slingerland realized the need to create a preventive, classroom-based approach of the Orton-Gillingham one-to-one tutoring methodology. Such an approach would not only benefit an entire general-ed classroom, but also specifically help students who had language-based learning differences (e.g., dyslexia).
Beth Slingerland continued her work post-WWII, after moving to Washington state. In 1960, she was finally able to deliver the first teacher-training class of the Slingerland® Adaptation for Classroom Use of the Orton-Gillingham Approach for Specific Language Disability (dyslexic) Children. As word of the program and its success spread, leaders in the field of dyslexia and school administrators from across the country took notice of the success of this instructional approach.
Slingerland went on to found the non-profit Slingerland® Institute for Literacy in 1977 (now called the Slingerland® Literacy Institute). The Institute provides teachers and tutors with the techniques, knowledge, and understanding necessary for identifying and teaching literacy. Slingerland, along with Mary Helen Robinson, also founded Hamlin Robinson School in 1983 as a demonstration school for the Slingerland® Approach. Hamlin Robinson School spun off from the Institute in 1986, becoming its own independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Beth Slingerland continued to produce teaching and training resources, as well as to publish articles about dyslexia and literacy, until she passed away in 1989. The Slingerland® Literacy Institute has continued in its work since that time and, in 2020, celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Slingerland® Approach.