Providence Talks holds first graduation



– Providence Talks today conducted a graduation ceremony for the first 18 children and their families who have successfully completed the year-long program.  Mayor Jorge Elorza personally congratulated each of the families, handing them their certificates of completion.  This followed a brief program, featuring remarks by the Mayor, Dr. Steve Hannon, President of LENA Research Foundation, John Kelly, CEO of Meeting Street and Caitlin Molina, Program Manager of Providence Talks.
A program of the City Of Providence, Providence Talks prepares children to enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed by empowering parents with the tools to build their child's vocabulary in the critical early years of brain development.  It combines new technology, a ‘talk pedometer' supplied by LENA, which counts the number of words and conversational interactions children experience throughout the day, with well-trained home visitors, who use this new technology, along with complementary qualitative measures, to give parents practical tips about how to do more reading and talking to their children, engage their children in more actual conversations, and use the power of positive reinforcement.
This innovative program aims to close the word gap, in which children from low- income families hear many fewer words in the critical early years than children from high- income families. This differential is one of the key factors in explaining why school performance by children from low-income families lags, according to studies conducted by Drs. Betty Hart and Todd Risley. These findings have been corroborated by a growing body of brain research.
Mayor Jorge Elorza said, “I congratulate this inaugural group of Providence Talks families. Their success shows the tremendous potential this program has for making sure that more of our children start school ready to learn and succeed. Providence Talks is a key component of my comprehensive strategy to boost school performance.”
Steve Hannon, President of LENA, which supplies technology and expert support to the program, said, “ I believe that Providence Talks can serve as a national model for how to  help parents increase both the quantity and quality of their interactions with their child, providing the kind of  effective early intervention that we now know is critical to success in school.”  
Providence Talks is in the process of completing its pilot phase, which includes 82 families. Expansion will begin this summer with the goal of rolling the program out throughout Providence.
Providence Talks is generously funded by a $5 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Providence Talks was the grand prize winner of Bloomberg Philanthropies' inaugural Mayors Challenge.  The Mayors Challenge is an ideas competition that encourages cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life-and that have the potential to spread to other cities.

(release from City of Providence)