Providence Talks: How to Close a “Word Gap” at a City-Wide Scale

Friday, February 17, 2017: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 202 (Hynes Convention Center)
Caitlin Molina, Providence Talks, Providence, RI

Overview of Providence Talks

Providence Talks helps parents use more words with their children during the critical brain development years from birth to age three. The program uses new technology that counts the number of words that children are hearing and the amount of parent-child “conversational turns” that are taking place in the home. The technology is complimented with biweekly visits from coaches who show parents their progress and offer tips for improvement.

Results to date:

Since its launch, Providence Talks has reached over 1,300 children. Early results show two-thirds of participating families make progress in increasing their words or engagement within the home. Children who had positive gains, heard on average 50% more words, roughly equivalent to reading “The Cat in the Hat” three times a day.

An outcome evaluation led by Brown University will document the long-term impact of the program on children’s success in kindergarten and beyond. Near-term indicators that the program is beginning to achieve results include:[1]


  • 1,340 children have enrolled in Providence Talks and have completed at least one recording.
  • Two-thirds of children remain in the program at the halfway mark, which is a considerably higher retention rate than similar home-visitation model programs.
  • 7,406 recordings have been completed, capturing a total of 104 million words, and three million conversational turns—the powerful back-and-forth volleys that build vocabulary.


Increased parent-child engagement:

  • Two-thirds of families make progress in the program, as measured either by an increase in the number of words a child hears or by the increased number of conversational turns between parent and child.
  • For children who start below the national average, by the time they finish Providence Talks, their recordings show that parent talk at home has increased by 44%. 
  • Progress is sticking — from a random sampling of program graduates, 70% of families maintained at least 20% of the gains they made in the program. And 60% maintained word counts higher than the starting average. 



  • 93% of all recordings are done accurately by families and are able to be used to measure their progress.
  • 100% of all home visitors are given direct coaching by an education expert in order to continuously improve their impact on families. 
  • 97% of parents report being satisfied or extremely satisfied with the program.

[1] Numbers in this section are from program launch to December 30, 2016.