ChildCareGroup, a Dallas nonprofit founded in 1901, developed a comprehensive early childhood education initiative, Wild About Words, which focuses on vocabulary building and pre-literacy skills necessary for kindergarten readiness, in partnership with PNC. PNC provided a $300,000 grant to be distributed to ChildCareGroup over three years. The grant is part of PNC’s Grow Up Great program, a $350 million, multi-year bilingual initiative that began in 2004 to help prepare children from birth to five for success in school and life.
Wild About Words was launched on October 3 at ChildCareGroup’s Landauer Center in East Dallas with parents, children, PNC representatives, and local education leaders, including Derek Little, Dallas ISD assistant superintendent for early learning, and Miguel Solis, Dallas ISD school board trustee. The launch event also brought together ChildCareGroup students, families and teachers, and PNC employee volunteers. They spent the morning doing fun early learning activities and enjoyed a children’s musical performance. As part of the grant, each family left the event with a bookshelf and books donated by PNC to create a home library.
ChildCareGroup developed the Wild About Words initiative in response to student data that showed children in the program need intensive early literacy and language development programming to tackle the specific challenges of dual-language learners and children living in poverty. The Wild About Words program will enhance ChildCareGroup’s already-robust vocabulary and language skills curriculum, classroom materials, professional development for teachers and family engagement activities to help to prepare at-risk children for kindergarten.
Wild About Words program will serve:
· 403 children ages 3 to 5, enrolled in 22 preschool classrooms at four ChildCareGroup Early Childhood Centers.
· Approximately 90 percent of ChildCareGroup preschoolers are Hispanic or African-American.
· All of the families ChildCareGroup serves are living at, or below, the poverty level, despite the fact that more than 80 percent of parents are employed or in job training programs
A quality early education helps children develop the foundational language skills that are crucial for future learning. In fact, children who start kindergarten behind generally stay behind. Specifically, children without strong vocabulary and language development from birth often struggle with reading later in life. Early learning challenges can have wide-ranging consequences on a child’s ultimate level of education and economic mobility as an adult, which affects the economy of the entire community.