In 1995, researchers Betty Hart, Ph.D. and Todd Risley, Ph.D. uncovered a startling correlation between family income, household auditory environments and success in school and beyond. Their discovery, that low-income children hear less than one third as many words per hour than children in high-income families, has long frustrated policy-makers and early childhood interventionists determined to close the word gap and ensure all children enter kindergarten ready to learn. Today, thanks to new advances in information technology and a successful network of statewide home visitation programs, Providence is poised to unlock the power of parental talk citywide, eliminating the vocabulary gap in Providence and setting all children on the path to success in kindergarten and beyond.
National data show that children in low-income households hear approximately 616 words per hour, nearly half as many words as heard by children in middle-income households (1,251) and less than one third as many words heard by children in high-income households (2,153).
For a child’s vocabulary to develop on an appropriate trajectory, children need to hear at least 21,000 words per day – the rough equivalent of reading Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat nearly a dozen times a day. But children in the lowest income bracket miss that benchmark by more than 5,000 words every day. That means that low income households across Providence need a collective boost of approximately 5 million words per day to close the income-correlated word gap.
Providence Talks is pleased to be partnering with Brown University to design and implement a rigorous, third-party evaluation of both short- and long-term impacts of Providence Talks. Our belief is that participants will demonstrate gains not only in adult word count and conversational turn count, but on key long-term metrics like third grade reading proficiency and even high school graduation rates.
Our Advisory Board
Anne Fernald, Ph.D.
Patricia K. Kuhl, Ph.D.
Dana L. Suskind, M.D.
Betty R. Vohr, M.D.
Patrick Vivier, M.D., Ph.D.
Public Health & Public Policy, Pediatrics, Hasbro Children’s Hospital