Literacy: A lever for citizenship?

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Within citizenship education, literacy is often promoted in a narrow functional sense of skills for civic engagement or is used synonymously with “knowledge” to refer to an awareness-raising process around rights. Through an analysis of evolving models of citizenship, this article moves beyond literacy for citizenship to consider the ways in which literacy learning can emerge through active citizenship. Drawing on published ethnographic studies of literacy in everyday life to analyse both the symbolic and instrumental meanings of literacy in specific contexts, the author introduces a social practice lens on literacy and citizenship. She explores the pedagogical implications for literacy within citizenship education, particularly in relation to informal learning of “real literacies”, critical digital literacy to distinguish “fake news” and literature as a way of entering someone else’s experiences. UNESCO’s current vision for global citizenship education as nurturing empathy and understanding between peoples implies that literacy providers need to recognise participants as not only consumers, but as co-constructors of texts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-30
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Review of Education
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2023


  • Adult literacy
  • Citizenship
  • Citizenship education
  • Ethnography

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