Photo of Tatum, Alfred W.

Alfred W. Tatum, PhD


Director of the UIC Reading Clinic

Curriculum & Instruction


Building & Room:

3004 ETMSW


1040 W. Harrison St. (MC 147), Chicago, IL 60607

Office Phone:

(312) 996-5641

Related Sites:


Alfred W. Tatum, UIC College of Education’s 9th dean, is a leading authority and one of the nation’s prominent educational scholars of African American boys’ literacy development. He became the dean of the College of Education June, 2014 after serving one year as the interim dean.

During his time as dean, Tatum has advocated for an exceptional educational experience for undergraduate and graduate students. He has also placed an emphasis on growing the College of Education’s research infrastructure and supporting departments to develop geographically responsive programs and courses as part of the college’s growth orientation he instigated to build powerhouse departments and become a more comprehensive College of Education. Dean Tatum has focused on increasing faculty, staff, and student diversity, improving facilities, and nurturing community engagement.

Dean Tatum has authored or co-authored close to 70 academic papers and publications on the topics of adolescent literacy, texts and identity, and the literacy development of African American boys, including three books. He is the author of the award-winning book, Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males: Closing the Achievement Gap. He also wrote the books, Reading for Their Life: (Re) building the Textual Lineages of African American Males and Fearless Voices: Engaging a New Generation of African American Adolescent Male Writers. He is also the author on four major reading and writing programs used with millions of students throughout the US.

Dean Tatum is a literacy theorist and pragmatist who regularly leads community engagement and literacy initiatives involving African American boys in schools and juvenile detention centers. While serving as dean, Tatum continues to direct the UIC Reading Clinic where he hosted the African American Adolescent Male Summer Literacy Institute from 2008-2012 to nurture the next generation of African American male writers. This institute was featured on a PBS documentary titled, Too Important to Fail. He also hosted Boys College for three years to advance the literacy development of African American boys in the elementary grades. He has led two Post-Release Education Projects for young men on intensive probation with Cook County probation after convincing the juvenile court judges to assign the young males to the UIC Reading Clinic instead of jail. He also volunteers to advance the literacy development of young men who will be transferred to adult prisons or jails. This work aligns with his moral compass to put his body in front of his work to advance humanity through literacy that he affectionately refers to as a tool of protection.

For more than 10 years, Tatum served on the national reading committee for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). He was on the Board of Directors of the two major literacy associations, Literacy Research Association and the International Literacy Association. He now serves on the Board for the Illinois Mathematics & Science Academy.

Dean Tatum has lectured at many of the top universities in the United States. He began his career as an eighth-grade teacher in Chicago after opting for a career in education instead of mathematics and finance after reading an article that chronicled the academic failure of African American boys in urban areas.

On a lighter note, Dean Tatum reads a minimum of five pounds of books per month. This started when he was eleven years old.

Tatum received his B.S. from Northern Illinois University and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago. After receiving his Ph.D., Tatum joined one of the nation’s top-ranked Colleges of Education at the University of Maryland before returning to his alma mater, Northern Illinois University. He joined the faculty at UIC in 2007 where he has served in multiple leadership roles over the past 12 years.

Dean Tatum has been married for more than two decades and is the father of two sons.

Selected Publications

Tatum, A.W. (2018). Toward a More Anatomically Complete Model of Literacy Instruction: A Focus on Black Male Students and Texts. In D. Alvermann, N. Unrau, M. Sailors, and Robert B. Ruddell (Eds.), Theoretical Models and Processes of Literacy, 7th edition, (pp. 297-316). New York: Routledge.

Tatum, A. W. (2016). Using reading and writing to nurture the intellectual development
of Black boys. In Being Black is Not a Risk Factor: Statistics and Strengths-based
Solution in the State of Illinois, (pp. 14-23). Chicago, IL: National Black Child Development Institute.

Tatum, A. W. (2014). Orienting African American male adolescents toward meaningful literacy exchanges with print. Journal of Education, 194 (1), 35-48.

Tatum, A. W. (2014). Text and adolescents: Embracing connections and connectedness. In K. Hinchman and H.K. Sheridan-Thomas (Eds.), Best practices in adolescent literacy instruction, (pp. 3-19). New York: Guilford.

Tatum, A.W. (2013). Common core state standards: Structuring and protecting equitable pathways for African American boys. In. S. Neuman & L. Gambrell (Eds.). Quality Reading Instruction in the Age of Common Core Standards, (pp. 75-89) Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Tatum, A.W. (2013). Identity and literacy instruction for African American males. In R. Wolfe, A. Steinberg, & N. Hoffman (Eds.), Anytime Anywhere: Student-centered learning for schools and teachers, (pp. 103-121). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Tatum, A.W. & Muhammad, G. (2012). African American males and literacy development in contexts that are characteristically urban. Urban Education, 47 (2), 434-463.

Notable Honors

2017, UIC Faculty Trailblazer Award, University of Illinois at Chicago

2010, Scholastic Heroes Award – Dedication to Advancing Adolescent Literacy and Improving Life Outcomes for All Young People, Scholastic

2005, James Britton Award, National Council of Teachers of English for Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males

2005, CHOICE Book Award, Outstanding Academic Titles for Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males, American Library Association


PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago