Nicole Gerber


PROVIDENCE - The Providence Talks initiative is based on research that shows children growing up in low–income households have less developed vocabularies -based on less adult interaction and fewer complex phrases.

So Providence Talks is using new technology, and training to help both kids, and parents, get ahead of the learning curve.

"Previous research has shown that the number of words that is heard between ages 0 and 3 is a good predictor for school success," said program director Gail Agronick.

75 Providence families are part of the pilot, using children volunteers from the Headstart program. Kids are fitted with special vests which hold small electronic devices. These "word pedometers" count their words and record their success.

The 16 week program also comes complete with home–visits and parent lessons and evaluations.

"We want to make sure that the kids enter school ready to learn, and the best way to do that is by training the parents from day one to make sure their children are ready," said Stephanie Taveras, a  home visitor.

After just one week in the program, 16 month old Jaiden's speech level improved almost 20 percent.

"I was expecting it to go up but not as much as it went up so I'm more happy that it went up more," said his mom, Ashley Cox.

Organizers hope expand Providence Talks to about 500 families in 2014, and potentially up to 2,000 by mid 2016.

Providence Talks was the grand prize winner in last year's Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors' Challenge – a national competition where it received $5 million.

And the Lena Research Foundation donated the use of all those word pedometers.

(c) WLNE-TV 2014