This case study describes the literacy development of a struggling reader over a seven-month period as he engaged in a youth-led participatory action research (PAR) project. The project's goal was for youth participants to develop a proposal for productive change in their local community and present it to community stakeholders. The study focused on ways the participants were supported in gaining skills in research, writing and oral communications. The study examines the process through which literacy skills improved for the youngest participant for whom the academic aspects of this project were extremely challenging. It describes curricular and pedagogical approaches during the process that led to his academic literacy improvements. Findings indicate the key components that increased this participant's literacy development were the caring, supportive environment that was established, an assets-based approach and apprenticeship model as well as connections of the research project to real world purposes.