Literacy as Social Action in City Debate


  • Susan Cridland-Hughes


This study examines critical literacy and the intersections of oral, aural, written, and performative literate practices in City Debate, an afterschool program dedicated to providing debate instruction to students in a major Southeastern city. Previous research into definitions and beliefs about literacy in an urban debate program over its twenty year history described literacy activities in debate as active and activist, attributes connected with a belief in literacy as critical (Author, 2008). City Debate participants facilitated the development of critical literacy as students prepared to compete in debate tournaments, but also as youth, volunteers, and organizers worked together to develop a community framed around “critical reading, critical thinking, and critical speaking.” This study offers insight into how one empowering youth literacy community prepares students to use critical literacy in debate and throughout their lives.