Successful Providence Childhood Language Program Expands to 5 Other Cities


Foundation: Bloomberg Philanthropies

Providence Talks is expanding into five additional U.S. cities. Bloomberg Philanthropies recently announced that Birmingham, Alabama, Detroit, Hartford, Louisville and Virginia Beach are picking up the program.

Providence Talks is an early-childhood program aimed at closing the word gap between affluent and low-income children.

The program provides families with a recording device called a word pedometer that counts the adult words spoken in a child's presence, as well as the number of conversations a child engages in during the day.

Providence launched Providence Talks in 2014 after winning a competitive, $5 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. It enrolls children between 2 and 30 months of age and coaches parents on the importance of speaking to their child.

The expansion is in line with a 2018 Brown University study that found the program "constitutes a promising strategy to disrupt the status quo to advance learning for all children" but that some parts of it are more effective than others.

According to Kimberly Fernandez, executive direct of Federal Hill House, a Providence non-profit that oversees Providence Talks, they are tweaking the program to offer more "play groups" for a longer period of time, 10 weeks as opposed to six.

The Brown review also found that by the end of the program, on average, all children made progress.

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