Reasons to Get a Reading, Language, and Literacy Doctorate

James Paterson
James Paterson

Obtaining a reading, language, and literacy doctorate is one way to get into a field where an educator can help students with what many believe are skills that are fundamental to a student’s entire education – and their success and happiness later in life.

Doctorate programs in literacy or reading generally revolve around educating students in skills once simply called “reading and writing”. Now, however, they involve much more, and are being carefully refined to meet the needs of more diverse student bodies.

The approaches to literacy are also changing rapidly, with new ideas about how to teach key skills, challenging existing thinking about those skills, and creating new territory for well-trained leaders. Those in the literacy and reading field say the work is satisfying and engaging, because the skills are so important to students, and because the work involves considerable attention to basic teaching and learning skills and broader theory about how children learn to read. The work also addresses how reading challenges can be fixed and how to advocate for reading in schools.

Before Pursuing the Reading, Language, and Literacy Doctorate

Teachers entering a doctoral program should have had some experience in literacy and reading, either having taught it directly or, if they taught another subject, having offered literacy instruction as part of their work with students. Doctoral programs in the field often expect three to five years of teaching experience.

Most schools offering doctoral programs also say applicants should have a strong interest in the process through which students learn literacy skills. Some schools emphasize that graduates will eventually be leaders in the field, and that they will ultimately use research to impact their students’ lives.

The curriculum might cover these topics to provide training in the various specialty areas in the field:

  • Teacher education
  • Teacher professional development
  • Early literacy development
  • The teaching of reading and/or literature
  • The teaching of writing
  • Reading comprehension
  • Classroom discourse
  • Literacy theory
  • Literacy and language development for English Language Learners

Career Opportunities Available

Graduates could supervise literacy departments and programs in specific schools or district-wide. They could become literacy coaches or reading specialists – and might work with adults or students new to the English language. They might work in social service programs or non-profits where the skills are important. Some of them could work in international schools where English literacy is taught.

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