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Language and Literacy in the US: Heading in the Wrong Direction

If you look at the numbers, it might seem that language learning and literacy are no longer valued by many elected officials or even by the general public. Since 2008, nearly every state has slashed budgets for language and literature programs.[1] What’s more, Americans are reading less: between 1992 and 2008, the percentage of US residents who read for pleasure decreased by 11%[2] while the percentage of family members who read to children fell by 8%.[3]

But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. Employers agree—emphatically—that language and literacy skills are still valuable. In fact, 80% of employers want colleges to emphasize oral and written communication skills,[4] and 73% point specifically to a liberal arts education as the best preparation for today’s global economy.[5]

Taken together, these numbers don’t add up. The United States is underinvesting in language and literacy education at a time when the skills they teach are increasingly valuable in the workplace. In short, we’re heading in the wrong direction.

The MLA has compiled this data and more in our Language and Literacy in the US infographic. Share it and make the case for investing in language and literacy education. As always, please urge your representatives to stand with the National Endowment for the Humanities, which provides extensive support for public literary and cultural programs in communities throughout the United States. Defunding the NEH would effectively defund these programs, which are critical sources of language and literacy education for the American public.

[2] (Illustration)
[3] (Illustration)
[4], pp. 1, 8, 2
[5], pp. 1, 8, 2

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