PNC Marks Anniversary With $19 Million Vocabulary Initiative

Grow Up Great, PNC Foundation's signature early childhood education program, is officially past its early childhood and moving toward adolescence. This year marks Grow Up Great's 10th anniversary, and PNC is rolling out a major new initiative to celebrate the occasion.

The funder announced a multi-year, $19 million initiative to build vocabularies in underserved pre-kindergarten children, first in Chicago, followed by other cities. With this initiative, PNC will support three new vocabulary programs to benefit Chicago children.

The first program of the three is the University of Chicago's 30 Million Words, led by Dr. Dana Suskind. The program gets its name from a study's finding that at-risk children by the age of four hear an average of 30 million fewer words than a more affluent child of the same age. PNC funding will help 200-250 families build their children's vocabularies and will follow the children's program as part of a five-year longitudinal study.

The second program will involve community organizations working to help families develop routines and habits conducive to positive vocabulary development in young children. The program will begin in Chicago before expanding to four more cities later in 2014 and to an additional five in 2015.

The third program leverages PNC's relationship with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street. The Words are Here, There, and Everywhere bilingual vocabulary program was introduced and even included a new muppet named "Buzz Word." Sesame Workshop will work with PNC to introduce a free, multimedia learning kit.

In addition to the new vocabulary initiative, PNC also announced the extension of its science learning programs for young children, as well as the introduction of a new online Lesson Center for pre-kindergarten teachers. The new site features early childhood lesson plans organized by theme and subject area. The lessons were created by organizations that collaborated on past PNC-funded programs.

Grow Up Great may be 10 years old, but considering that PNC has committed more than $300 million to the program since its inception in 2004, it is likely that  the program will be around another decade, which is good news for educators and nonprofit organizations interested in early childhood education.