Research shows that, by the time they enter kindergarten, children growing up in low-income households in the United States will have heard 30 million fewer words than their peers from middle and high-income households. Low-income children hear 73% fewer words than children in high-income households and 54% fewer words than children in middle-income families. This “word gap” undermines school readiness and performance.
Providence Talks helps parents use more words with their children during the critical brain development years from birth to age three. The program uses new technology that counts the number of words that children are hearing and the amount of parent-child “conversational turns” that are taking place in the home. The technology is complemented by monthly visits by coaches who show parents their progress and offer tips for improvement.
To date, Providence Talks has served more than over 3,000 children and the results are promising. A Brown University evaluation of the program found that children who participated made significant gains in the number of words they heard, the turns they took in conversation and in language development. Overall, the largest gains were seen in children who started the furthest behind. These children, on average, showed a 51% growth in the number of words they hear daily, going from an average of 8,000 to over 12,000 words per day. By the end of the program, participating children showed, on average, a 15 percentile point increase in their Developmental Snapshot scores, a tool used to measure a child’s development progress and language skills.