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Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schools


Anne H. Charity Hudley


Christine Mallinson

Available in hardback and paperback on, Barnes & Noble,

and Teachers College Press in the Multicultural Education Series

Also available digitally on Kindle and on Nook

Click here to view the table of contents

and click here to follow our book page on Facebook!

You can also download our new free iPhone app, “Valuable Voices”! The app provides 12 ready-to-implement exercises for students and educators — one a month, for a year’s worth of teaching — to build awareness of language and culture. The teaching exercises are geared for secondary English but can easily be adapted for various grades and content areas. Please download it, use it, and let us know what you liked — and didn’t! To download the app, go to the App Store on your iPhone and type in“Valuable Voices”. To our knowledge this is the only sociolinguistics app of its kind. We couldn’t have done it without our team of assistants and our teacher consultants – thank you all!


Read below for endorsements of our book…


“[A]n academic study relevant to anyone interested in the way children (and adults) process language, as well as to classroom teachers looking for educational strategies to better serve their students. Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels.” —From Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

“Language is an essential component of a student’s culture and identity. …This useful and incisive book will help educators deal with the growing ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity within the United States and the schools.” —From the Series Foreword by Dr. James A. Banks, the Kerry and Linda Killinger Endowed Chair in Diversity Studies and Director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington

“Throughout this book, there is a regular alternation between description of language and the insightful application of this knowledge to the classroom. One never loses sight of the primary goal: to lead students to a mastery of reading and writing of standardized English.” —From the Foreword by Dr. William Labov, John and Margaret Fassitt Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Linguistics Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania

“A landmark book…It guides linguists and educators as we all work to apply our knowledge on behalf of those for whom it matters most: students.” —From the Afterword by Dr. Walt Wolfram, William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of English Linguistics, North Carolina State University


From the Preface of our Book:

In this book, we promote a multicultural, multidisciplinary model of linguistic awareness that addresses pressing educational challenges related to English language variation and culture in the United States. We provide critical linguistic knowledge that helps educators accomplish four main goals:

  • To teach all students how to communicate effectively in various social and academic situations;
  • To distinguish language variations from errors when assessing students’ listening, speaking, reading, and writing;
  • To help students address common language-related challenges on standardized tests; and
  • To appreciate the rich variety in students’ cultural backgrounds, linguistic heritages, and personal identities.

Throughout our book, as other scholars within the Teachers College Press Multicultural Education Series have done, we uphold language standards and promote academic success for all students, while appreciating the varieties of English that many students speak. We believe that a solid understanding on the part of both students and educators of the language patterns that students bring with them into the classroom helps all students attain academic success. We therefore explain and advocate ways that educators can adopt linguistically informed ways of teaching standardized English and understand how the structure and use of standardized English compare to the structure and use of non-standardized varieties of English that students may use at home.

As we strive to advance knowledge about and respect for linguistic and cultural diversity, we follow in the footsteps of those who have come before us in the multicultural education movement, working to ensure that all students in an increasingly diverse United States are educated in ways that enable them to achieve to their highest potential.

“In the ongoing debate about language we typically hear arguments about what students say and/or how they say it. Finally, a volume that takes on the ‘elephant in the parlor’ — WHO is saying it. By laying bare the complicated issues of race, culture, region, and ethnicity, Charity Hudley and Mallinson provide a scholarly significant and practically relevant text for scholars and practitioners alike.” —Back cover endorsement by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education and Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

“An invaluable guide for teachers, graduate students, and all lovers of language. The authors provide a comprehensive and fascinating account of Southern and African American English, showing how it differs from standardized English, how these differences affect children in the classroom, and how teachers can use these insights to better serve their students.” —Back cover endorsement by Dr. Deborah Tannen, University Professor and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University

“Language variation in English is one of the more misunderstood areas in education. The authors do an exceptional job of demystifying the topic by providing useful background material and practical insights. This volume is destined to become a foundational classic for teacher preparation and the ongoing professional development of educators.” —Back cover endorsement by Dr. Terrence G. Wiley, President of the Center for Applied Linguistics and Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University


To learn more about our book, contact us and/or visit our Facebook page.  

You can also check out this excellent YouTube video review of our book by The Black Curriculum.  “What is being done to foster inclusion and diversity in U.S. schools with regards to pedagogy and curriculum? … Y’all gotta understand, this book right here was an answer to prayer from above!”


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