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Early education program addresses R.I. youth literacy

March 7, 2018
Jack Brook
The Brown Daily Herald

The number of words children hear in their first three years critically impacts their future development, and children from lower-income families will have heard 30 million fewer words than their peers when they start kindergarten, according to a widely cited University of Kansas study.

This word gap harms educational growth — in 2013, two thirds of Providence children starting kindergarten fell short of Rhode Island’s literacy tests, according to a report by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Providence Talks, an early intervention program developed through the mayor’s  office, hopes to close this gap and allow children to enter school with a solid foundation of vocabulary.

Mayor Jorge Elorza has slated an additional $500,000 to go towards the program for the 2018 fiscal year. “It’s the only program of its kind working at scale to address this specific issue and we’re proud to have incubated it in our city,” Elorza said in a statement.

Since 2013, Providence Talks has succeeded in helping more than 2,500 children bolster their vocabularies, according to Executive Director Caitlin Molina. Nearly two-thirds of the children who participated in the program increased their vocabularies and were exposed to 50 percent more words than before they enrolled.

“We look at how we can strengthen the language environment of home,” Molina said. “We need to be sensitive to all of the social and emotional factors in the home and how this impacts the child’s language development.”