In Memoriam: Dr. William H. Teale
In August of 2015 I took two small children and got on a plane leaving LaGuardia Airport in NYC, now headed for the Midwest. After dropping my kids off with my parents, I took my mom and dad’s car and drove to Evanston, IL for my first day of work. My husband was following with the moving van and would arrive the next day, but for all intents and purposes I was going to Illinois by my lonesome. Moreover, I really didn’t know anyone in Evanston itself. No one, that is, except Junko Yokota and her husband Bill Teale.
I didn’t know Bill very well at this point. In spite of that fact, he kindly offered to let me stay in the house he shared with Junko the night before my first day of work. Junko was out of the country at that moment, but that didn’t stop Bill from being a marvelous host. He was, to borrow a family phrase, one of nature’s gentlemen, explaining my new city to me, making me dinner, the works. A day later he arrived unexpectedly at our new home bearing a bottle of wine to officially greet my family to Evanston. He didn’t have to. It was just the sort of kind gesture he was accustomed to bestowing regularly.
Since that first meeting I came to realize what a powerhouse Bill was in the world of children’s literature and children’s literacy. Then, two nights ago, I received word that he had died unexpectedly in his home at the age of 70. The International Literacy Association has already written a magnificent piece, honoring Bill, called Advocate, Leader, Humanitarian: ILA Mourns the Loss of Dr. William H. Teale. There they outline his incredible accomplishments, including the following:
“Teale was incredibly passionate about early literacy and the importance of diverse, quality children’s literature, and he decried the inequities across the globe that denied access to both. He was the very definition of a literacy leader.”
Many of us crossed paths with Bill over the years, unaware of just how much he did for literacy on a global level. If you never had the chance to hear him speak, take some time to watch this speech from about four years ago about working with pre-school children.
You can also read this article from Language Arts (Vol. 95, no. 3) called Nurturing Young Children’s Literacy Development through Effective Preschools, Practices, and Policies: A Conversation with Dr. William H. Teale published just last month. And finally, you can find a bibliography of his written works here.
If you are interested in donating something in remembrance of Bill, donations can be contributed to the William H Teale Fund of the International Literacy Association (ILA). This fund will sponsor speakers for presenting the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) session at the ILA annual conference.
Address: William H. Teale Fund, c/o the International Literacy Association, 800 Barksdale Rd., Newark, DE 19711-3204.
For my part, I’ll always remember Bill as the first friendly face I saw when I came to my new city and new life. He was one of the most interesting people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Let’s see to it that his legacy lives on.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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