Word Expeditions program encourages young learners to improve vocabulary

Preschoolers gather around their teacher. (Photo: ABC7 file)

WASHINGTON (ABC7) -- Over the next two years, young learners in the Kenilworth-Parkside community in Northeast will be spending more time at Smithsonian museums. Their participation is part of a pilot program called Word Expeditions.

Michael Harreld, regional president of PNC Bank of D.C. explains, "It's a partnership between Smithsonian, and D.C. Promise Neighborhood initiative that's going on in Greater Washington."

PNC Foundation has donated $1 million to the two-year initiative. Preschoolers from Kenilworth-Parkside and their families will attend monthly vocabulary building workshops at Smithsonian museums and Neval Thomas Elementary School.

Smithsonian's Assistant Secretary for Education and Access Claudine Brown outlined the program's goals in helping preschoolers succeed.

"We're really trying to build a strong foundation where they have vocabulary but also understand the concepts underpinning the vocabulary," she told ABC7.

Studies show children who develop early language skills and a more extensive vocabulary often perform better academically.

"The vocabulary young people have is a quick metric of how successful they're going to be in elementary school," Harreld said.

Alma Powell is Honorary Chair of D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative and also emphasized the importance of building a young child's language skills.

"You have to start very early teaching them vocabulary and teaching them the meanings of words so that they are attuned to it and then, reading becomes so much more practical for them," she advised.

Mother-of-two Michelle Brown appreciates the program but also realizes how important her role is in her children's development.

"My kids, I hardly let them watch television. We come home, we read for 30 minutes every day," she shared.

The Word Expeditions initiative provides toolkits to families to help them engage their children in learning activities at home.

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