Graduate Certificate Programs in Reading and Literacy – Campus and Online Programs
Updated: November 18, 2022
Graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy provide individuals with in-depth knowledge of and skills in literacy development, reading comprehension and analysis, and English language instruction for both advanced and struggling readers across different grade levels. While some of these programs are available to students from any professional or academic background, the majority of graduate certificates in reading and literacy are designed for certified or licensed teachers who want to gain additional knowledge and credentialing in the areas of literacy instruction and cultivating reading comprehension.
Students of graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy can expect to take courses on the foundations of literacy, reading and literacy program assessment and improvement, methods for teaching and reinforcing reading comprehension, literary criticism and its relation to social justice and diversity, and methods for supporting both struggling and exceptional readers. In addition, these programs tend to incorporate discussion of learning technologies and how they can be leveraged to enhance students’ progress in literacy, reading comprehension, and mastery of both critical analysis and analytical writing.
Reading and Literacy Explained
Reading and literacy are core pillars of students’ education at all grade levels, from pre-kindergarten through undergraduate and graduate school. Teaching literacy and reading comprehension requires an ability to understand each student’s unique and complex needs as a learner, as well as training in both foundational and advanced pedagogical principles. Furthermore, with the advent of online learning technologies that supplement in-person classroom instruction, educators are in increasing need of training on how to incorporate new education technologies into their curricula to enhance students’ learning and literacy outcomes.
Graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy generally cover best practices in curriculum development and evaluation, student learning outcomes assessments, and identifying and addressing learning challenges and barriers. Educators who have completed a graduate certificate in reading and literacy can typically expect to gain in-depth and advanced knowledge of reading comprehension pedagogy, literary analysis methods, and teaching literacy and language arts within diverse sociocultural and socioeconomic contexts. In addition to working in the public and private school systems, such individuals may demonstrate qualifications for education-related roles in government, technology, and business/entrepreneurship.
Identifying and Classifying Graduate Certificate Programs in Reading and Literacy
Graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy are typically offered through schools and departments of education and/or teaching and learning at accredited colleges and universities, though some programs may be offered through a teacher’s college or a school of professional studies or continuing education. Graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy are distinct from professional teacher’s certification and/or licensure — while the former are academic programs that confer graduate course credits (which can typically be applied to a full graduate degree in the future if the student wishes), the latter are generally state government-granted credentials that teachers and instructors obtain by taking and passing an examination.
Furthermore, graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy differ from professional preparation courses designed for teachers interested in professional certification in reading and literacy. Several states offer supplemental credentials in reading and literacy for teachers — for example, California’s Department of Education offers a Reading and Literacy Added Authorization (RLAA), while Virginia offers a Reading Specialist Certification, both of which require candidates to complete professional training and pass a specialized examination. These additional authorizations or certifications require candidates to complete specific course content that may or may not be covered as part of a graduate certificate program.
Some colleges and universities that provide graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy offer an option for students to also qualify to sit for an additional professional credentialing examination; however, not all graduate certificate programs offer this option. In addition, schools have also begun to offer programs specifically for teachers interested in these supplemental credentials. These programs generally consist of fewer course credits than graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy, as they are more targeted in nature. Therefore, prospective students should review graduate certificate programs carefully to ensure they select programs that best meet their career goals.
Reading and Literacy Graduate Certificate Coursework
Graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy are typically comprised of 12-18 course credits, though some programs may consist of 25-30 credits, depending on the school’s credit system and academic calendar. Specific course content and sequencing vary by program, with some programs consisting solely of coursework while others include a required practicum experience or a portfolio submission. In addition, while some programs feature a set curriculum of courses that all students must take, other programs may allow students to choose from a menu of courses in reading and literacy to fulfill the credit requirements.
Examples of courses that a reading and literacy graduate certificate program may offer include, but are not limited to:
- Principles of Literary Instruction in the Classroom
- Fundamental Reading Methods
- Curriculum Development and Supervision for Literacy
- Support for English Language Learners
- Advanced Literacy Methods
- Literacy, Diversity, and Social Justice
- Interventions for Literacy Challenges
- Analyzing and Addressing Literacy Difficulties
- Classroom Community-Building Around Literacy
Online Reading and Literacy Graduate Certificate Programs
Many graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy are designed with the working professional in mind. As a result, most of these programs have classes that are offered in the evenings, and/or are delivered online for maximum scheduling and geographical flexibility. In addition to allowing students to attend classes and complete course requirements from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection and computer, online graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy give students who live in rural areas that are far from a university more options for pursuing graduate education. Instead of commuting to campus or relocating to attend an in-person program in their desired area of specialization, online students can now select from a broader variety of programs in reading and literacy, without disrupting their personal or professional lives.
Online graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy use learning management systems (LMSs) to deliver course lectures and modules, and to facilitate communications between students and their instructors. LMSs are online portals that allow students to attend lectures asynchronously and/or synchronously, complete homework, sit for virtual examinations, and participate in virtual discussion boards. LMSs also typically have video communication capabilities for when instructors and/or students want to meet and discuss course concepts or projects in real-time.
All online graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy utilize asynchronous instruction. Asynchronous course content is defined as the lectures, assignments, and discussions that students can access and complete on their own time, as long as they meet key assignment deadlines. Programs that use primarily or exclusively asynchronous instruction are well-suited for students who manage their time well and who want maximum scheduling flexibility when it comes to their graduate studies.
Some, but not all, online graduate certificate programs employ synchronous instruction. Synchronous instruction consists of all course components that are delivered in real-time, and which require students to log onto their LMS at specific times during the week or on the weekend. Examples of synchronous instruction include live video lectures, group projects that require students to meet online at a set time, video breakout discussion sessions, and examinations that all students must take simultaneously. Synchronous instruction is inherently more structured than asynchronous instruction, and can therefore be quite helpful to students who want an educational experience that more closely resembles the traditional, on-campus experience. However, synchronous instruction also necessitates that students designate specific times each week for their coursework, which can be challenging for some professionals.
Prospective students of graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy should consult admissions staff at their programs of interest, and evaluate their own learning preferences and scheduling commitments, in order to identify programs that offer an instruction method that best fits their professional and personal lives.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Reading and Literacy
Each of the online graduate certificate programs in reading and literacy that are described below are offered at accredited institutions of higher education. These program descriptions are intended for informational purposes only, and are not representative of all the graduate certificate programs available in this discipline.
Ball State University offers an online Graduate Certificate in Literacy Instruction that also has an Add-On License in Reading option, where students can take an examination to earn a teaching license for reading instruction. This program is comprised of 15 course credits, divided across five classes. Courses in this program cover reading instruction at the elementary level, integrating technology into literacy instruction, current trends and issues in literacy, supervision of a school reading program, reading diagnoses in the classroom, and advanced language arts teaching methodologies. For more information about this program, please visit Ball State University at www.bsu.edu.
The University of Kansas (KU) offers an online Graduate Certificate in Reading Education through its School of Education & Human Sciences. This program is comprised of 18 credit hours, spread across six courses. Each course takes eight weeks to complete, and students can finish the entire program in as few as 8-10 months. The courses in this program cover the foundations of reading theory, processes, and instructional practices; the English language learner; emergent literacy; supporting striving leaders; writing and spelling development and instruction; and reading comprehension study strategies. This program’s curriculum was designed according to the International Literacy Association’s Standards for Reading Professionals. To learn more about this program, please visit KU at educationonline.ku.edu.
Eastern Washington University offers an online Graduate Certificate in Literacy that is designed for certified K-12 teachers who want to hone their expertise in reading and literacy pedagogy. This program is comprised of 30 credit hours, and can be completed in as few as 10 months of full-time study. Students of this program take courses on literature-based teaching, advanced reading methods, reading inquiry, critical and social literacy, instructional foundations and interventions for students with literacy difficulties, and advanced literary methods. They are also required to complete an internship and submit a portfolio with a reflective essay. For more information about this program, please visit Eastern Washington University at online.ewu.edu.