Five cities will replicate Providence Talks, offering LENA programs for parents and teachers citywide


Five cities have been selected to replicate Providence Talks, one of the first early language initiatives implemented at the municipal level, with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Providence Talks launched in 2014, after the City of Providence, R.I., won the grand prize in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2013 Mayors Challenge with the idea to launch a city government-led intervention to promote language and interaction between children and their adult caregivers. In partnership with local nonprofits, Providence Talks has used LENA “talk pedometer” technology in home visiting, playgroups, and professional development to help parents and teachers learn to increase the quality of children’s language environments.

Independent researchers at Brown University evaluated Providence Talks for three years, finding that the program helped families to increase brain-building, back-and-forth conversations with children. Children also heard more words and showed advanced developmental skills. Children who began the program experiencing the lowest amounts of talk saw the greatest gains.

To replicate this successful approach, Bloomberg Philanthropies provided $2.5 million to five cities to launch or expand programming inspired by Providence Talks. In addition, Bloomberg Philanthropies is also contributing a $1.2 million in-kind donation of LENA technology, program curriculum, and program support.

The three-year project will launch in five cities across the United States this September:

Birmingham, AL, is launching Birmingham Talks to serve the greater Birmingham metropolitan area. Birmingham Talks plans to serve more than 1,500 children annually by year three. The city will launch LENA Grow to provide professional development to early childhood teachers and LENA Home to offer home-visiting services to families in conjunction with Nurse-Family Partnership.

Detroit, MI, is partnering with Brilliant Detroit — a neighborhood-based organization that provides health, family support, and educational programming to children — to launch 313 Speaks. The program expects that by its third year it will serve 2,100 children annually through LENA Start, LENA Home, and playgroups for families.

Hartford, CT, is expanding its existing LENA Home program at The Village for Families & Children, a local nonprofit, and bringing programming to classrooms through LENA Grow as part of Hartford Talks. LENA Grow will be incorporated into the city’s early childhood professional development initiative with early learning centers and family child care providers.

Louisville, KY, is partnering with the National Center for Families Learning — a Louisville-based national nonprofit that works to eradicate poverty through education solutions for families — to expand programming though its Say and Play with Words program, which aims to improve vocabulary for children ages birth to five. The program expects to serve 400 children annually by its third year. The site will reach families through playgroups using LENA Home curriculum and LENA Start parent-group classes.

Virginia Beach, VA, is launching LENA Grow and LENA Home through the Virginia Beach Reads campaign to complement their existing LENA Start program. The city expects to serve 500 children annually by year three.

These new sites will join 100 communities around the world that are implementing LENA programs to provide caregivers with coaching and feedback to increase interactive talk with children, a key factor in early brain development. LENA programs are on track to reach 10,000 children in 2019, and these innovative, scalable replications will increase their impact even further in the coming years.

“We’re excited to partner with these cities to build strong families and high-quality classrooms nationwide,” Dr. Stephen Hannon, president and CEO of LENA, said. “Our vision is that every child enters kindergarten ready to succeed. By increasing the quality of the early language environment, adults can help children develop the social, emotional, and cognitive skills to excel in kindergarten and in life.”

We explored the replication with panelists who helped to spearhead the project in a special webinar. Click below to watch the recorded webinar.

Watch the webinar

Learn more:

Discover the programs that are part of the replication: LENA Grow, LENA Start, and LENA Home.

Download the 14 Talking Tips, a shareable resource for parents and teachers.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest news on innovative programming and brain research.

Watch a webinar to explore the brain research underpinning the programs, special topics, and more.

Read media coverage of this story in the Hartford Courant, Detroit Free Press, Medium, Providence Journal, and the Birmingham Business Journal.


The LENA Team is a dedicated group of professionals who are passionate about increasing awareness of the importance of early interactive talk. We are statisticians, speech-language pathologists, curriculum specialists, engineers, and linguists.

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3 Comments on “Five cities will replicate Providence Talks, offering LENA programs for parents and teachers citywide”

  1. This is a great news. I been working as a recruiter with Federal Hill House Association since Providence Talks started. l’m very proud to be part of this wonderful program.
    Congratulations Providence Talks!!

  2. Looks like a great opportunity for the five new cities. Rochester, New York is recognized as area with third highest childhood poverty level in the U.S.A. and all the problems that come with it. Will there be a next round of Blomberg initiatives? Would be very interested in presenting our city as a candidate.

    1. Hi Dr. Bloom, thank you for reaching out. As of right now, Bloomberg Philanthropies has no plans for additional rounds for replication. However, through LENA Foundation, there is some additional philanthropic funding to support launch of LENA Start programming. You can find more information on that opportunity here:

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