Pilot program helps children expand vocabulary

Providence Talks is a new program designed to build a child's vocabulary, making them more ready to enter school and to learn.

Ashley Cox enrolled her children to see if she can help them learn.

"It's different every week. It depends how it is in the house and what Jaiden is up to doing," Cox said.

According to Providence Talks, low-income children hear 30 million fewer words than those growing up in middle- and high-income homes by their fourth birthdays.

Stephanie Taveras is the family's trainer, who shows them how to use a "word pedometer" to measure how many words the children are exposed to and then how they can increase their vocabulary every day, with relatively simple behavior changes within the home.

Taveras has already seen some improvement with Jaiden from his baseline word exposure from week one to week two.

"We came back, spoke about watching less TV and having more parent-child interaction," Taveras said. "And week two it looks like she took my advice and it looked a lot better and she jumped up to the 93 percentile."

Taveras will also provide books and other community resources for the family after months of home recordings, analysis from these feedback reports and coaching sessions.

"The whole point of this is to piggy back on existing services, not to necessarily create another infrastructure to be on top of where Providence already has its strengths," said Gail Agronick, of Providence Talks.

Cox said she is happy to be a part of this and says she already thinks her children's vocabularies are improving.

"He's talking and I'm starting to tell what his needs are," Cox said.

The Providence Talks program is voluntary and it was chosen from more than 300 submissions to last year's Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge.

The money awarded helps fund the home visits and staffing of the pilot program with 75 families enrolled. Brown University will study the outcomes to determine a model to help it grow citywide.