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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
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 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.

There are two focus areas that students can choose from:

Literacy, Language, and Culture

The doctoral specialization in Literacy, Language, and Culture (LLC) focuses on “reading the word and the world,” as Paulo Freire famously put it. By this we mean that our specialization focuses on 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.

A critical literacy framework honors the personal and political nature of language use and language learning in schools as well as in family, peer, community and online contexts. We draw on scholarly traditions in literacy, critical and sociocultural theories, multilingual/translingual studies, English Education, 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.

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.

Young People's Texts and New Literacies

Advanced graduate study in Young People’s Texts and New Literacies involves inquiry into the nature of children’s and young adult literature and other texts, and into reading practices, processes, and the engagement involved in understanding these texts.

The focus of this specialization is on the role these texts play in empowering young people to transform a global society and on the potential of young people’s texts across genres and modalities ranging from traditional print formats and genres to multimodal and digital texts.

This program relies heavily on socially and culturally situated research, but also draws on the framework of cognitive science. The study of young people’s texts and engagement with them is especially concerned with issues such as social justice, environmental ethics, and with how children’s texts and new literacies can be used across educational and community settings to nurture activist positions and further the development of an empathic and sustainable global civilization.

M.A. Curriculum

Master of Arts students have similar 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

Abby Rombalski

"The faculty have deep knowledge and connections across their fields of study, nation-wide, and many are also linked into local and state issues that impact families and education."

Abby Rombalski, Ph.D. candidate 2018