Providence Talks: Winning Idea in the Mayors Challenge

Providence Talks: Winning Idea in the Mayors Challenge


Mayors Challenge, a competition created by New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg through his organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies, calls upon U.S. cities to creatively find local solutions to national problems. This year’s winning idea, Providence Talks headed by the city’s mayor, Angel Taveras, was awarded $5 million to fund their children’s literacy and education initiative.

On average, a child hears approximately 21,000 words per day as part of their learning development, but research shows that many children in lower income homes hear significantly less words. By the time this child celebrates their fourth birthday, that deficit amounts to an astronomically 30 million fewer words than their peers of other socio-economic status.

The city of Providence proposed to equip qualified families with a small recording device that measures the number of words a child hears per day. This device, developed by the LENA Research Foundation, filters out television and background noise and paints a comprehensive picture of a child’s daily auditory environment. The device distinguishes between adult word counts and the number of conversational interactions the child engages in during the course of the day.

Participating families would receive this data as well as monthly visits from social assistance organizations who can direct participants to existing community resources like read-aloud programs at neighborhood libraries or special events at local children’s museums.

The recording device and support team would be available to families for free.

Providence Talks is a promising initiative that will assist children at a critically early age and prepare them to learn at the same level as their peers once they begin kindergarten.

For more information on the other finalists or on the Mayors Challenge visit,



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