“Vocabby’s World” program growing Birmingham children’s language skills

UAB’s Alys Stephens Center and McWane Science Center provide lessons that are benefiting young children, their families and communities in Norwood and Woodlawn through this program, funded by the PNC Foundation.

thumb asc vocabbysworld groupChildren and their families participate in a "Vocabby's World" workshop. Thousands of young children in two Birmingham communities are getting a boost in education through the successful “Vocabby’s World” arts- and science-based program.

The PNC Foundation recently awarded a $200,000 grant to the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center and McWane Science Center to extend a pilot program for preschool children in the Woodlawn and Norwood communities. Now beginning its third year, “Vocabby’s World” helps preschoolers grow language skills by introducing new words each month, through science projects with McWane and through visual arts and movement with the Alys Stephens Center.

“When PNC launched this experiment two years ago, we tapped into UAB and McWane’s knowledge and outreach experience to help bring quality early learning to life for children in our underserved communities,” said Brian Bucher, PNC regional president, Alabama. “With ‘Vocabby’s World,’ we’re now successfully engaging thousands of young students and empowering them to build critical skills that will help them in school and life.”

In year three, focus will also be on expanding the program through curriculum development that can be implemented in new communities. A new video series in development featuring the program’s mascot, Vocabby, will give families an opportunity to learn new vocabulary lessons at home or on the go.

In 2014, the PNC Foundation awarded an initial $500,000 grant to the two partners to start the pilot vocabulary initiative now known as Vocabby’s World. Birmingham is one of 10 cities PNC selected from across the nation as part of the $10 million pilot, which engages community organizations to build young children’s vocabularies.

vocabby groupFrom left: UAB's Vice President for Financial Affairs and Administration Allen Bolton, Chair of the Alys Stephens Center's Advisory Board Allen Montgomery, Alys Stephens Center Executive Director Anna Thompson, PNC's Erin Stephenson and President Ray Watts.Neighborhood workshops and hands-on vocabulary lessons are set for every third Saturday of the month, along with community-based events and other outreach activities, including center visits, professional performances and summer learning sessions. Vocabby appears at all functions to interact with the children and engage them during lessons. Free books, curriculum and art materials reinforce the new vocabulary learned. Entire families can benefit from the program’s workshops and opportunities.

“Vocabby’s World” also engages local community partners with the Passport Program, a word scavenger hunt. Each month, neighborhood merchants will display vocabulary posters related to items in their businesses. Participating children will receive passports with the target words, and when the children locate the word in their community businesses, they can get their passports stamped for points.

Participating businesses have included Woodlawn Cycle Café, 55th Place Thrift Store, City Meats, Club Duquette, First Avenue Upholstery, The Shop & Basics, and It’s Linda’s Beauty Shop.

The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group, actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence. The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture. For more information, visit www.pncartsalive.com.