The city-led, early childhood education program Providence Talks has enrolled its 500th family. It’s been two years since the program’s pilot group was launched, under then-mayor Angel Taveras. Providence Talks aims to increase the number of words a child hears in the years leading up to kindergarten.
Parents receive in-home visits from coaches, who work to increase parent-child interactions. The kids involved periodically wear devices which measure the number of those interactions.
Providence Talks director Courtney Hawkins said the city hopes to enroll some 2,500 families by the end of 2017. Hawkins said in addition to home-visits, Providence Talks will begin offering new ways of getting families involved.
“Our next two models are going to be slightly different,” said Hawkins. “One is going to be a group model, and be coached as a group with other families. And the other model we’re launching is training early childhood development professionals.”
Hawkins said on average, families who completed the program increased the number of words spoken at home by about 10 percent. Some increased that number by 50 percent.
Now that several groups of families have completed the Providence Talks program, the city must follow up.
“We’re looking at do families skills and improvements that they make when they’re in the program,” said Hawkins. “Are they still implementing those skills and demonstrating those improvements three or six months after they finish?”
The city is developing a way to track the children’s kindergarten readiness with Brown University. Hawkins said the first students from the program are still about a year away from kindergarten.
Correction: an earlier version said the program started under current Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, in fact Angel Taveras was mayor at the time the program started.