Providence Talks is an innovative learning model that helps parents and educators use more words and expose children to more language during the critical brain development period of birth to three and a half. Children need to hear about 21,000 words a day for optimal development but research shows that many young children, particularly in low-income households, are exposed to far less language. By age four, these children will have heard many million fewer words than their peers in more affluent households, putting them at a developmental and educational disadvantage.
Each 90-minute Providence Talks play group meets once a week for eight weeks. Trained staff from Federal Hill House use a curated version of Providence Talks' early learning and coaching curriculum. All participating families receive a special recording device for their child to wear on one day per week, which fits into a pocket of a vest. Every week, the data is downloaded from the "word pedometer" and discussed with the adult caregiver. During one-on-one feedback sessions, adults receive strategies for increasing adult word count and conversational turns, the acquisition of child vocabulary, and how to build learning through book reading. During the instructional group, facilitators also model ways to use play and songs as a means of advancing learning outcomes. Children and their families additionally engage in social interactions that further promote development and mitigate risk factors.
The City of Providence developed Providence Talks for the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a competition that encourages cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life. The City won the grand-prize in 2013 and received $5 million to implement the Providence Talks program through home visits with families and community playgroups. Today the program is a project of University College, Roger Williams University, with subcontractor services provided by Federal Hill House staff.
The first PCL play groups started at Washington Park and Olneyville. A play group will begin at Mount Pleasant in April and new groups at other PCL locations are planned. We'll keep you posted about Providence Talks play groups in our libraries, through the PCL website, newsletter and social media.