After One City Experiments With Toddlers Wearing Recorders and Sees the Number of Words They Hear Grow 50%, 5 More Mayors Will Pilot Innovative ‘Word Gap’ Program

Article Summary:

In 2013, the Bloomberg foundation chose Providence Talks as the grand prize winner of its inaugural Mayors Challenge, which funds innovative ideas proposed by mayors nationwide. More than 3,000 children, mostly from low-income backgrounds, have participated in the Providence program, and researchers have watched as the first cohorts of students entered kindergarten and made dramatic progress.

Research shows that Providence Talks has helped to increase the amount of adult words and conversations that children hear.

“I look at this not only as a language acquisition program, but I also look at this as a parent empowerment program,” said Kenneth Wong, a Brown University researcher who evaluated the program. “As parents get more involved, as parents get access to some of the learning tools that they otherwise would not have received, they kind of empower themselves.”

The Providence Talks model targets children between six months and 3 years old, the most formative time for brain development. Once a week, children wear a vest that includes a pocket for a LENA device, also known as a “word pedometer.” The device, made by the nonprofit LENA, syncs with an online program that counts how many words the children hear each day, but it does not recognize which words are exchanged.