Children in five cities are going to be exposed to a lot more words.
That’s because Bloomberg Philanthropies has awarded these cities — Birmingham, Ala., Detroit, Mich., Hartford, Conn., Louisville, Ky., and Virginia Beach, Va. — a combined $12 million over three years to replicate Providence Talks.
Providence Talks – “the first-ever Grand Prize Winner of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge,” according to a Bloomberg press release – is a language-rich early education initiative that equips children with recording devices that track the words children hear and use each day.
The initiative has had “promising results, helping thousands of young children increase their language development. Today, we’re glad to help five new cities adapt the program and work to achieve similar progress,” Michael Bloomberg, the founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and the 108th Mayor of New York City, says in the press release.
Providence Talks, which is ongoing, has served more than 3,000 children and has been featured in national news stories. A study conducted by Brown University researchers found that Providence Talks has had a positive impact, increasing the number of words adults speak to children as well as the number of conversations between adults and children.
Brown’s researchers write: “Taking into account Providence Talks’ scale, design, and efforts to recruit the targeted populations in diverse neighborhoods, this study concludes that Providence Talks constitutes a promising strategy to disrupt the status quo to advance early learning for all children.”
Now the five new “Talks” cities will receive grant funding as well as “technology and software, including talk pedometer devices, and other tools required to replicate the approach. These critical technological resources are provided by LENA, a national nonprofit organization that develops technology to measure talk,” the press release adds.
Rather than simply replicating Providence’s efforts, the five cities are learning from Providence but crafting their own approach:
• Birmingham is launching Birmingham Talks
This program will implement a “unique combination of coaching curriculum and conversational tracking both at home and at daycares, in partnership with Nurse-Family Partnership-of Central Alabama (NFP-CA) and The Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity (JCCEO),” the Birmingham Times reports.
• Detroit is partnering with Brilliant Detroit — a neighborhood-based organization — to launch 313 Speaks
“Detroit plans to start with the playgroup model, where families will visit Brilliant Detroit facilities in neighborhoods,” the Detroit Free Press reports.
“A similar program has already been running on a small scale in Detroit. Known as LENA, an acronym for Learning Environment Analysis, the program uses the same model of recording, analyzing and encouragement for parents.
“The 313 Speaks program will vastly expand that effort, starting with about 300 kids in the first year and growing from there, said Cindy Eggleton, executive director of Brilliant Detroit.” (313 is the city’s area code.)
• Hartford is building on an existing program
“Making sure our youngest minds are prepared for kindergarten can have a powerful impact on their long-term development and success, and we are thrilled to bring this proven model to Hartford,” Mayor Luke Bronin said in a press release.
• Louisville is partnering with the National Center for Families Learning—a Louisville-based national nonprofit — to expand programming though its Say and Play with Words program
“Louisville is in a period of unprecedented economic momentum, but we know the benefits aren’t being experienced equally across the community,” Mayor Greg Fischer says in a press release. “There’s a disparity with deep and disturbing roots in our history. Through efforts such as Say & Play with Words, SummerWorks, Evolve502 and more, our core city value of lifelong learning continues to be a major piece of our efforts to erase this disparity.”
• And Virginia Beach is launching new programming through the Virginia Beach Reads campaign, which will complement existing word count programming.
“We are seeing a lot of families across all demographics that were distracted. We’re not making time for as much human interaction as we used to,” Barb Lito, coordinator of Virginia Beach’s GrowSmart program says in a Virginian-Pilot article. “Talking with children is what will really help stimulate that positive brain development.”
Action on the city level promises to yield great benefits for families nationally and internationally. As Michael Bloomberg says on his Facebook page:
“The ideas that mayors have work – and we can support programs that become a model for progress that cities around the world can replicate.”