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Closing the 30 Million Word Gap

What does the number 30 million mean to you? To children, it means a lot.


Studies indicate that children from low-income families may hear roughly 30 million fewer words by age 3 than their more affluent peers. That’s 200,000 words less each day. And the Library wants to do something about it.
The Chicago Public Library Foundation (Library Foundation), in partnership with El Valor and Metropolitan Family Services, have requested funding from PNC Bank’s Grow Up Great initiative to address the 30 million word gap head on, in the Englewood, Pilsen and Little Village communities.
The activities proposed through the funding request focus on vocabulary building for preschool-age children. Programming includes Parent Workshops and Family Programs, Family Storytelling and Story Hour sessions – all engaging vocabulary-building activities. Six branch libraries will house Active Learning Centers, where interactive materials – including three-dimensional trees, puppets, flannel boards, word puzzles, as well as give-away books for pre and new readers – will help build participants’ vocabularies. Young patrons will be able to check out backpacks filled with books and vocabulary building activities for use at home. This initiative will also be part of the Library’s “Take 20, Read Plenty” campaign.
“The vocabulary gap is a tremendous issue for Chicago’s low-income pre-schoolers,” says Rhona Frazin, President & CEO of the Chicago Public Library Foundation. “The Chicago Public Library Foundation will do all that we can do financially to help the Library address the needs of our city’s youngest learners.”
The Chicago Public Library has a long history of fostering vocabulary building and early literacy among Chicago’s children. In 2007, recognizing that many Chicago first graders who did not attend pre-school didn’t know the alphabet, numbers, colors or shapes, CPL began to expand its early literacy programming. Since then, all CPL staff who work with children have received over 65 hours of training from national experts in the five pillars of vocabulary development: talk, sing, read, write and play. Children’s librarians have also learned how to incorporate these critical concepts into programs for young children. This important grant from PNC will help Chicago Public Library continue its expansion of innovative programming and spaces for developing readers.