‘Talk To Your Kids’

Even the ones you don’t like. The New Yorker magazine has a great writeup of the innovative, early-childhood intervention program, Providence Talks. Former Providence Mayor Angel Taveras should pat himself on the back for this one (safe to assume there were many players working hard to bring this about). After winning the top $5 million grand prize Mayors Challenge and bringing

In 2012, the mayor of Providence, Angel Taveras, heard about the Mayors Challenge, a new competition being offered to cities that proposed a bold idea for making urban life better. . .

One day, while Taveras was mulling over what to propose for the Bloomberg competition, his policy director, Toby Shepherd, told him about Hart and Risley’s research—including their calculation that a poor four-year-old has heard thirty million fewer words from his parents than a wealthy one has.

The resulting program helps parents understand the importance of talking to their babies and toddlers with assistance from caseworkers. The program monitors, measures, and quantifies. Staff writer Margaret Talbot focuses on one young mother, Annie Rodriguez, and her toddler Eilen.

Rodriguez is enrolled in a program called Providence Talks, the most ingenious of several new programs across the country that encourage low-income parents to talk more frequently with their kids. Once a month, Eilen wears a small recording device for the day, and the recording is then analyzed. An algorithm tallies all the words spoken by adults in her vicinity, all the vocalizations Eilen makes, and all the “conversational turns”—exchanges in which Eilen says something and an adult replies, or vice versa.

This is a fascinating piece, but when, oh when, will we ever get to read an article about Providence that doesn’t have to mention . . . you know.


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