Language & Literacy

Language & Literacy

Program Description

The yearlong Language and Literacy (L&L) Program is grounded in the belief that language and literacy skills are essential to every aspect of an individual's life and that literate individuals contribute positively to our social, cultural, and economic well-being.

Public, independent, and charter schools all face the challenges of students who struggle to read and write. The latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) findings demonstrate that American students are falling behind their counterparts internationally. School reform efforts are centered on improving student achievement in reading and writing. Improving literacy has become the mandate of our educational system; if students are not literate, they cannot succeed in other content areas, such as math, science, and history. 

In order to become change agents, L&L students gain a comprehensive perspective on literacy development, including the role of English language learning, socio-cultural influences, and ethnic backgrounds. With a bilingual and multilingual focus, students study literacy through the lenses of policy and practice, and through research that deepens knowledge of the discipline to the level of neuroscience; all with an emphasis on how students can use the knowledge to become a force for positive change in education policy and practice.

Within the program itself, students may pursue one of three strands: Generalist, Literacy Coach, or Reading Specialist.

  • Generalist students take half of their courses offered by the Language and Literacy program faculty and the other half of their program is individually designed to meet students’ interests in practice, policy, and research.
  • Literacy Coaching students take Language and Literacy courses, as well as an adult development course and a practicum, which will prepare them to provide ongoing, school-based professional development.
  • Reading Specialist candidates fulfill requirements established by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for licensure as a Reading Specialist Teacher, including courses in reading development, comprehension, and reading difficulties, as well as practicum placements.

In addition to learning from and collaborating with a faculty of leading authorities in the field, students enjoy access to the considerable resources of HGSE’s Jeanne Chall Reading Lab, where they can conduct research. They may also train as a reading specialist or literacy coach by working with mentors in the local public schools. As part of the L&L curriculum, students may choose classes — at the Ed School, as well as Harvard’s other graduate schools — that fall into the broad categories of research, practice, and policy, representing an interdisciplinary course of studies.

Graduates of the program help give children and adults the key to unlock the written world by applying a comprehensive understanding of the field’s theory and research to individual lives. L&L graduates pursue work in a multitude of diverse settings, including public, charter, and independent schools, community programs, hospitals, policy organizations, and educational publishing. Many serve as classroom teachers or work with programs in adult literacy and basic-skills training for college students. Others become reading specialists, literacy coaches, literacy consultants, researchers, diagnosticians, or teacher educators.