Providence Talks’ official launch took place in September of 2015. Two years later, the program has impacted more than 2,100 children in the City of Providence, which includes over 1,000 children who had never before been involved in any kind of early childhood programming. Providence Talks helped expose the severity of the word gap problem in Providence: As of September 2017, 61% of all families who enrolled in either the Home Visiting or Playgroup model started below the 50th percentile in Adult Word Count, averaging only 7,827 words spoken per day to their children — far fewer words than needed for a child’s healthy brain development.
The impact from Providence Talks for these neediest of families has already been felt: For families who start below the 50th percentile in the home visitation model and graduate from the program, they are increasing their average daily Adult Word Count from an average of 8,008 per day to 11,481 per day — a 43% increase.
As Providence Talks continues to grow throughout Rhode Island’s capital city, the program has plans to expand into additional Rhode Island cities and towns in 2018, utilizing three unique models to reach family and children: Home Visiting, Playgroup, and Professional Development.
A pilot program, launched in 2014, enrolled over 175 families in Providence Talks and exposed the severity of the word gap problem in Providence: more than half of children in the program were hearing far fewer words than they needed for healthy brain development. After completing initial coaching sessions, however, those families who started out at the lowest levels increased the words spoken in their homes by 50%, moving from an average of 8,000 words per day to an average of 12,000 words per day. Research indicates that children should hear approximately 21,000 words per day for optimal development. Overall, 43% of pilot graduates had gains of 20% or more in their word counts, 29% had gains of 50% or more, and 10% doubled their word counts.
The significant gains experienced by needy families in improving their household language environment has encouraged Providence Talks to continue innovating and improving its program models to serve more families in Rhode Island. After Providence Talks was featured last July on NBC Nightly News, the program received emails and phone calls from hundreds of families nationwide asking about the program, and if there was anything like it where they lived. The need for increased birth-to-3, early childhood programming is essential. Providence Talks hopes to be able to provide assistance, where possible, to any organization or entity seeking to establish programming to bridge the Word Gap in their community.
For replication inquiries, you can contact the Providence Talks Leadership Team.