English Center for Early Literacy Success

Nell K. Duke

Executive Director Center for Early Literacy Success

Nell Duke is considered one of the world’s foremost experts in early literacy education. Her career has been focused on the right to literacy, particularly the ways in which early childhood (birth through age eight) education can set children on a path to literacy proficiency.

Early in her career, Nell interwove experiences teaching and pursuing degrees, eventually earning a masters and doctorate in human development and psychology, with a concentration in language and literacy, at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. For 24 years, Nell served as a professor of education and psychology first at Michigan State University and then at the University of Michigan. Her research focused largely on how to support young children in learning to read and write informational texts. Her teaching, writing, professional development, and work with policymakers aim to bridge gaps between research and practice in early literacy education.

In 2018, Nell was awarded the International Literacy Association’s highest honor, the William S. Gray Citation of Merit, for outstanding contributions to literacy research, theory, policy, and practice. She has been named one of the most influential education scholars in the U.S. in EdWeek and has been involved in a wide range of initiatives designed to reshape literacy education. She has worked with many U.S. states to improve literacy instruction, for example through the Council on Chief State School Officers, and has served as a long-term advisor for the District of Columbia Public Schools, which had the highest growth in the nation in fourth-grade reading on NAEP in the decade prior to the pandemic.

Nell is thrilled and humbled to join the team at Stand for Children as they work toward educational equity and justice, including in early literacy. The Center for Early Literacy Success at Stand will formally launch in summer, 2023, working with schools and early childhood education settings to provide a research-aligned and equitable early literacy education.

Nell maintains a partial appointment at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she was born and raised. She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and her teenage son and always enjoys her adult daughter’s visits home as well.

To join our efforts and stay informed about what is happening at the Center for Early Literacy Success, please sign up here. Follow Nell on Twitter @nellkduke and at her website: nellkduke.org.