Dr. Deborah Van Duinen of the Hope College education faculty is being honored by the Michigan Reading Association (MRA) for her significant contributions to promoting literacy.

She will receive an Individual Literacy Award from the MRA during the statewide organization’s 60th annual conference, taking place on Friday-Monday, March 18-21, in Detroit. Citing her work as program director of the Big Read Holland Area during the past two years as well as her research and additional service at Hope and in the community, the conference program’s biographical sketch praises her as “an exemplary literacy scholar.”

The MRA is presenting a total of six awards during the event, two Individual Literacy Awards and four in other categories.

The Big Read Holland Area encouraged community-wide reading of “To Kill a Mockingbird” in November 2014 and “The Things They Carried” in November 2015. Thousands of people of all ages participated each year, with related activities ranging from lectures to performances to reading-discussion groups throughout the area. Multiple community organizations worked together for the events, which were funded through highly competitive grants, administered by Van Duinen, to the college through the Big Read initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Van Duinen’s research and teaching interests include adolescent literacy, literacy theory and pedagogy, English education, secondary teacher preparation and development, and children’s and young adult literature.

She is the author of multiple articles related to her areas of research, and has made more than 30 presentations at professional conferences around the country as well as Canada. Locally, she organizes monthly research colloquies in the Department of Education at Hope and connects her pre-service teachers with teachers, colleagues and community members to study literature resources, opportunities and networks.

She has received a variety of external awards in support of her research, and in January 2013 she received the college’s four-year Towsley Research Scholar award for a project focusing on the literacy skills that adolescent boys develop outside of school and how those skills can be transferred to school-related tasks. Statestats.org named her one of the state’s top-25 professors in education in the spring of 2013.

Van Duinen has been a member of the Hope faculty since 2011. A 1998 graduate of Calvin College, she taught high school English for five years before pursuing her master’s at Calvin and her doctorate at Michigan State University.