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More about American Literacy Council

The American Literacy Council is the name of the non-profit organization that undertook a serious academic study of our illogical spelling in the early 20th century. Today the primary activity of the Council is to offer literacy software and other aids that can be used in the home, library, or schools for people of all ages having difficulty writing and reading.

Since written English does not make consistent use of the simple phonetic assumptions that other European languages generally use, software was developed that enables non-readers to begin writing by using letters as they experimentally think they might be used. The computer instantly corrects these invented spellings, but also speaks the corrected spellings audibly and clearly thru the multimedia sound card that is typical in desktop and laptop PCs. 

Department of Education statistics indicate that, in the United States, between one person in ten, and one person in five cannot read and write adequately enough to read want ads, fill out job application forms, read maps, or read story books to children (see Literacy Facts). Meanwhile, spelling is not even a school subject in Spain, Italy, Germany, Russia or other countries where letters are used with much greater consistency to represent spoken sounds.

Computer technology is used by the ALC together with basic phonic principles to guide non-readers into a life of active writing and reading. The ALC pioneered and produced the product Sound-Write, a computer program that enables students to begin typing words, phrases and sentences using letters to spell words, experimentally at first. (see Software)

As the student tries to type words, each word is instantly corrected to proper English spelling by the computer, and the word is also spoken slowly (audibly) so that the pronunciation of each syllable is immediately associated with the corrected spelling shown on the computer screen. Incorrectly spelled words are displayed below the corrected spellings for a brief period and in a different color. Exercise materials and a manual accompany the programs. (Downloaded versions provide only a limited number of runs until registration is completed with payment of $79.)

Sound-Write runs best on stand-alone PCs, and with earphones or speakers. Even without voice output, the program is very useful because an optional phonetic representation of each word can be displayed using a dependable notation similar to phonics notation, but using only the normal letters of the alphabet.

The software has been formally tested at Columbia University ESL labs for effectiveness. It is currently in use at Head Start centers, libraries, ESL classrooms, and college literacy or learning labs. The program is especially effective in high school labs for use by people having difficulty learning to write or read.

To obtain information about Sound-Write please telephone ALC's home office in Colorado (303 440-7385, or send email to   You may also download a trial copy of the Sound-Write program.

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American Literacy Council, 230 S 39th Street, Boulder CO 80305
Telephone: (303) 440-7385

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