Initiative Aims to Expand Pre-K Vocabulary

City of Chicago announces partnership with PNC Financial Group

Chicago's preschoolers will be getting a little additional help out of a new partnership that aims to improve their vocabulary.

"Vocabulary is really the base of children's learning. It's the way they express themselves. It's the way they communicate," Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop's Senior Vice President of Outreach and Educational Practices, said Tuesday. "We find with particularly at-risk children there's a need to foster that vocabulary much more."

Betancourt spoke in support of the initiative between the City of Chicago and PNC Financial Group which aims to raise awareness with parents about the need to talk to their children early and teaches them techniques to expand their child's vocabulary.

The initiative also will allow for two more years of the Early Science Learning Program, which brings together Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and Shedd Aquarium to bring innovative science programs to pre-k classrooms.

Early childhood education is a topic that's near to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's heart. In an op-ed published Monday in the Washington Post, Emanuel took both major political parties to task for what he said is a "stale and senseless debate in Washington:"

"Too many Republicans today ridicule the value of early education. That would come as a shock to their parents, many of whom, no doubt, read to them when they were young and made sure they had many educational experiences. Democrats, on the other hand, want universal early education and are willing to spend whatever is required. But more money for more slots will not automatically achieve the goal of preparing children to learn."

Emanuel last year announced a three-year, $36 million investment into early childhood education programs. 

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