For Release: Immediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development

Free Library of Philadelphia and Community Partners Launch Words at Play Vocabulary Initiative for Preschoolers

The PNC Foundation today announced the launch of a $1.5 million, two-year project to build vocabulary and comprehension for pre-kindergarten children and their families in North Philadelphia neighborhoods served by the Cecil B. Moore and Widener libraries of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

 Programs delivered through the Words at Play Vocabulary Initiative will be led by the Free Library of Philadelphia, in collaboration with the Franklin Institute, the Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Zoo. Together, they will use the grant to help more than 5,000 children and their families build vocabulary and learning experiences into daily activities. Philadelphia is one of 10 cities PNC selected for this $19 million program.

“This is an unprecedented collaboration among the city’s leading educational and community organizations to deliver programming that meets a critical need - providing families and preschoolers with the resources to build vocabulary,” said Siobhan A. Reardon, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia. “PNC’s support allows us to focus on a fundamental element of early learning that directly affects a child’s future success in school and life.”

The initiative is part of PNC Grow Up Great, a bilingual program that helps children from birth to age 5 prepare for school. A national study found that an at-risk child hears 30 million fewer words by age four than a child from a more affluent family. An estimated 80 percent of households served by the Cecil B. Moore and Widener libraries are low or moderate income households.

“Vocabulary is the cornerstone of a child’s development. Through the Words at Play Vocabulary Initiative, we support the work of some of the city’s most well-respected community institutions in helping underserved children learn new words,” said Paula Fryland, PNC regional president for Philadelphia-Southern New Jersey.

Families will receive supplies and resources to encourage learning at home. PNC will introduce the “Words at Play Vocabulary Initiative” at a free neighborhood-wide block party on Saturday, May 9 at the Cecil B. Moore neighborhood library, 2320 W. Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

The program will feature key components that include:

  • Play party series: Families will take part in a series of informal, yet structured workshops at libraries and other locations.
  • Family Fun Trips: Each cultural organization will take turns hosting a welcome event for families and young children. These events will bring together the talents of each organization as they lead activities focused on helping families engage young children in building their vocabulary.
  • Community event programming: Throughout the year, the Words at Play Vocabulary Initiative and educational materials will be highlighted at 12 different events coordinated by neighborhood-based organizations.

Participating children will receive “Words Are Here, There, and Everywhere,” a new, bilingual multimedia educational kit created by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame StreetTM, as part of a continuing partnership with PNC Grow Up Great.

PNC Bank employees are offered 40 hours of paid time off a year to volunteer in Grow Up Great programs. Since 2004, employees in Philadelphia-Southern New Jersey volunteered more than 32,000 hours in support of early childhood education initiatives.


About The Free Library

The 61-location Free Library of Philadelphia system advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 25,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi; and rich special collections, including  those at Parkway Central Library and at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia. With more than 6 million in-person and 10 million online visits annually, the Free Library and the Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.

About PNC

PNC grants are provided by the PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group (NYSE: PNC). The PNC Foundation 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. Through Grow Up Great, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has created a $350 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life.


Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850