Linguistic Diversity and Reading in American Society

Authored by: Rose-Marie Weber

Handbook of Reading Research

Print publication date:  March  2016
Online publication date:  April  1996

Print ISBN: 9781138834262
eBook ISBN: 9780203447772
Adobe ISBN: 9781136610745


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English is the paramount language of the United States, a given in most public and private situations. In these times, literacy in the language is mandatory for acquiring full-fledged recognition as an American. To become a citizen of the country, immigrants are required to demonstrate their ability to read and write English, just as children growing up as citizens in the 50 states are required to read and write English. When the United States became a nation, the former colonies included speakers of many languages other than English, including indigenous American languages, and were flanked by French and Spanish colonies to the west and southwest. The first century or so of territorial expansion and Atlantic immigration brought many instances of the use of writing in the various languages, even for official purposes in state governments and public schools (Kloss, 1977). In the 20th century, however, English has had few rivals at the instrument of law and government, commerce and industry, arts and sciences, communications, and public education. Nowadays, the stature of English as the national language is reinforced by the continuing expansion of English as a world language, learned by hundreds of millions as a second language (Kachru, 1982). It is the most widely read language in the world, ranking first in the number of book titles published annually (Gage, 1986).

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