Early Literacy

Focus Area: Early Literacy


We aim to dramatically increase the percentage of successful 3rd-grade readers — especially among populations underserved in our schools — and to champion evidence-based policies and practices that ensure their continued achievement.



To guide our early literacy grantmaking and policy work, we employ three strategies:

Support the preparation, recruitment, retention, and continued development of effective teachers and leaders to serve students who need them most.




Foster successful schools that marry high expectations with high support, promote the use of data, and encourage collaboration.




Promote aligned pathways bridging PreK and K-12 to promote continuity and consistency for learners.

Building on early childhood support dating back to the 1990s, today McKnight pursues an early literacy goal to dramatically increase the percentage of Twin Cities students reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

McKnight's Education & Learning National Advisory Committee is composed of national experts in early literacy and representatives from McKnight's board and staff, and provides oversight and funding recommendations to the Foundation's board of directors. The University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute leads and manages McKnight's grants to Twin Cities school districts, including coordination of technical assistance and knowledge sharing.


Closed application process

McKnight's Education and Learning program uses a closed application process; proposals for funding are accepted only from selected organizations that are invited by Foundation staff to apply.


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