University Scholar William Teale: Bringing literacy to families

University Scholars 2013, William Teale, Director, Center for Literacy

William Teale, director of the Center for Literacy. “We’re very interested in establishing partners with other departments.” Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services (click on image for larger size)

The University Scholars Program, now in its 29th year, honors faculty members for superior research and teaching, along with great promise for future achievements. The award provides $10,000 a year for three years.

William Teale has spent decades as an expert in early literacy, working with schools across the U.S., public libraries, Head Start, public TV stations and child care organizations.

He did some of this work through the UIC Center for Literacy.

Since he became director of the center last summer, he’s turning more of his attention to the economic well-being of families, and he sees opportunities throughout UIC.

“I’m trying to get the message out to the UIC community: ‘Here we are,'” says Teale, professor of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education.

The center was founded in 1991 to develop and evaluate literacy programs. It has dozens of employees who work with city agencies to offer free services like parent education in Head Start programs, autism resource centers in Garfield Park and Englewood, and a library for preschool teachers.

“We’re one of the best-kept secrets in the university. We’re very interested in establishing partnerships with other departments,” Teale said.

Last month the center partnered with the College of Medicine on a proposal to expand a program of in-school vaccinations. The center’s role would be to make outreach and recruitment materials as readable as possible.

“We’re especially interested in health careers. We see that as a burgeoning market, and it could be a good gateway to employment for the families we work with,” Teale said.

“We do courses in financial literacy, and getting people ready for employment — everything from interviewing skills to beefing up their academic credentials. We’d like to do ‘bridge to employment’ programs in health careers.

“We just started a new program that’s focused on volunteering. We’re trying to help the agencies we work with prepare people to be volunteers, and we look for placements.”

Teale advocates the center’s dual-generation approach, working with parents as well as children.

“We’ve been doing this kind of work for 15 years now, and all of a sudden, it’s hot. We’ve put out proposals to repackage some of our existing programs to create a comprehensive dual-generation approach,” he said.

Teale looks forward to the January opening the new Center for Family and Community Leadership, which will be housed at Malcolm X College.

“It will link people to services for family well-being — employment opportunities, a GED program. Our plans are to ramp up their abilities to access opportunities so they can break the cycle of poverty,” Teale said.

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