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Ph.D./M.A. in Literacy Education


The Ph.D./M.A. in Literacy Education is designed for educators interested in advancing the field of literacy. Graduates of our program can expect to create a comprehensive research program that advances literacy.

Our faculty are leading scholars in the areas of children’s and adolescent literature, critical literacy, English education, reading, and writing. Their expertise and cutting-edge research contributes to the strength of the program’s coursework.

Research Opportunities

Students work closely with faculty to develop their own research agendas.

View past students research theses in literacy education.

View research topics in the literacy education research area.

Literacy Research Centers and Resources

  • Minnesota Reading Research Center (MCRR) conducts applied research that supports teachers, particularly those who teach students of poverty and students from diverse backgrounds.
  • Path to Reading Excellence in School Sites (PRESS) is driven by research-based approaches to literacy, incorporating quality core instruction, data-driven instructional decisions and interventions, and meaningful professional development to support systemic change.
  • America Reads is dedicated to increasing the literacy skills of students in grades K-8, supporting the educational efforts of our community partners, and together fostering the development of students and literacy mentors.
  • The curriculum Library is a resource for children’s literature and young adult fiction offering events and workshops for educators.

Career Outlook

Graduates of the program have assumed positions as university faculty, instructional leaders in the public schools, curriculum development specialists, and assessment specialists.

Some recent graduates have gone on to positions in research and higher education at:

  • Salisbury University
  • Penn State, Altoona
  • Western Washington University
  • Hamline University
  • University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
  • Augsburg College
  • Montana State University, Billings
  • Federal College of Education (Nigeria)
  • Science Museum of Minnesota


Our faculty serve as presidents of literacy organizations, journal editors, committee chairs, and executive board members for organizations such as NCTE and IRA. They oversee numerous research projects, serving as project directors for federal grants, and they are authors of impactful journal articles, books, and materials for scholars as well as K-12 teachers and learners.

View literacy research areas

Deborah Dillon Professor
Deborah Dillon
Justin Grinage Assistant Professor
Justin Grinage
Lori Helman Professor
Lori Helman
Timothy Lensmire Professor
Timothy Lensmire
David O'Brien Professor
David O'Brien
Marek Oziewicz Professor
Marek Oziewicz


Core courses are offered at night or in the afternoons for working professionals looking to enter the program on a part-time basis.

To view the core curriculum and electives visit the Education, Curriculum, and Instruction Ph.D. page in the course catalogue and view Literacy.

The literacy education doctoral track helps students become literacy leaders. Working in schools and other educational settings, students develop an understanding of literacy as a set of socially and culturally situated practices. We take literacy to be plural and intersectional, defined by a range of skills that enable us to navigate multiple disciplines and thrive as lifelong learners. Students develop individually tailored foci of their research in collaboration with faculty in one or more of the overlapping core areas: reading education, children’s and adolescent literature, critical literacy, English education, translanguaging literacy, as well as multimodal, digital, and culturally relevant literacies.

None of these core areas are exclusive. For example, some students are drawn to projects that explore how reading and writing practices—in and out of school—help us to make meaning, connect with others, take action, contest language ideologies, and transform our worlds. Others gravitate toward inquiry into the nature of children’s and young adult literature and other texts across genres and modalities. The focus may be on how these texts and new literacies nurture activist positions and empower young people to respond to the global challenges—for example, climate change and technological acceleration—in ways that further the development of an empathic and sustainable global civilization. Yet others develop research that looks into the role of creative writing in English Education, reading interventions for achieving equitable educational outcomes, or pedagogical practices that support minority and new immigrant student populations.

The projects students develop are grounded in a critical literacy framework that honors the personal and political nature of language use and language learning in schools as well as in family, peer, community, and online contexts. Our research draws on scholarly traditions in literacy, critical and sociocultural theories, multilingual/translingual studies, English Education, children’s literature studies, and cultural studies to consider how reading, writing, and response to literature and digital media shape and are shaped by race, language, culture, identity, and codes of power. Our understanding of literacy is also anchored in a commitment to equity and a vision of an inclusive future.

In order to advance these goals, we do the following:

  • Engage in research, teaching, and outreach that supports culturally and linguistically diverse learners.
  • Advance the understanding of children's literature as a force for social transformation.
  • Develop literacy teachers and leaders for diverse schools.
  • Apply multiple theoretical and research perspectives to problems and questions central to the filed of literacy.
  • Advocate for justice literacy, race literacy, eco-literacy, digital literacy, and other new literacies as tools that empower us to face global challenges.
  • Strive to influence literacy policies that address inequities and benefit all learners.

The literacy education PhD track relies heavily on socially and culturally situated research, but also draws on the framework of cognitive science. Coursework provides both a broad background in relevant theoretic and research literature and opportunities to conduct original studies that explore the nature of literacy practices in a variety of settings.

M.A. Curriculum

Master of Arts students have similar curricular goals and can choose either a thesis (Plan A) or final paper (Plan B) to complete their degree.

View the core requirements for the M.A. in Literacy in the course catalog.

Timeline and Admissions Information

Priority Deadline to apply: December 1

Admissions Decisions: January

Funding decisions finalized by mid-April

We have several funding options to support students full-time through program completion. See the for admissions page for M.A. and Ph.D. students.

Transfer Credits

International students

Anna Jennerjohn

"The faculty are very passionate about humanizing research in education; each class I take has deepened my understanding of both the how and the why of research in education."

Anna Jennerjohn, PhD candidate '21