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00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f7707e000090.5 WESA's Life of Learning series focuses on learning and education activities, opportunities and challenges in the Greater Pittsburgh area.This multi-year commitment to providing learning-focused news coverage in southwestern Pennsylvania is made possible by a generous grant from the Grable Foundation.

PNC Funds Vocabulary Development Programming With Cultural Partners

Regular vocabulary and comprehension programming will be available to Homewood children and families through a $1.5 million two-year grant from PNC’s Grow Up Great initiative.

The six partners in the initiative – Carnegie Science Center, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy – tested the program this past fall at various Homewood locations. The Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children has worked in Homewood for several years providing opportunities for early education and development. PAEYC’s Early Learning Hub in Homewood was one of the pilot locations for Buzzwords.

During the winter the team developed the programing, finding that flexible program times and providing take home activities for parents meant better results.

PNC announced Saturday that Pittsburgh is one of the 10 cities piloting the Buzzwords initiative this year to improve children’s vocabulary and raise awareness of its critical role in a child’s early development.

Sally McCrady, president and chair of the PNC Foundation, said a portion of the Grow Up Great initiative is focused on language development because it is an early predictor for success.

“Studies have long-highlighted the importance of vocabulary building in early childhood development. It helps advance children’s cognitive and social learning. And children’s vocabulary development has been shown to be a predictor of success in school and life,” she said.

The program features a series of weeknight and weekend workshops. Each Saturday, one of the partners will teach a lesson in Homewood, using that partner’s discipline as a foundation for learning.

“You’ll see Christina Farrell from the Opera Theater and she’s going to do a musical telling of the book, ‘The Sea Serpent and Me.’ And she’s really going to show how utilizing a book, families can incorporate language development activities and enhance children’s vocabulary by introducing new words,” McCrady said.  

During the fall, partners found that introducing a word and exploring the word with several activities and at-home activities worked best. The partners were in communication and built on each lesson, providing a comprehensive program.

“You can introduce one word in several different ways. With young children it’s so important to be repetitive, that’s how young children learn. So if you can take one word and introduce it in several different ways, that’s a great way for parents to understand how to reinforce new words so they really stick.”

The grant will also be used to hire a part-time coordinator to develop and plan free events and educational material in addition to the scheduled programming.