Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Mary Sue Garay

Second Advisor

Joyce Jackson


This study describes the literate abilities of a group of upper level elementary African-American school children who participated in an urban, African-American, church-sponsored, after-school tutorial program. Using an ethnographic research method, I relied on field notes, audio-taped interviews, and writing samples to collect and analyze the data. The participants in the study were six subjects (five females and one male, ages 10 to 12) who were enrolled in the tutorial program. Over the course of seven months (October, 1997 to May, 1998), I observed all activities in which writing literacy took place at the tutorial program. From this observation three themes emerged: (1) the Black church as literacy mentor, (2) the tutors as agents of change, and (3) the subjects, constructed existence as a "little community." That is, despite having diverse personalities and character traits, they each shared common goals and interests. Certain factors peculiar to the traditions and customs of the Black church---its ritual and performance helped upper elementary children increase their literate abilities. The findings of this study expand the body of research literature on non-school writing development in African-American children; thus, the study should interest literacy researchers and writing instructors who seek to understand the nature of literacy in African-American school children.