Seeing holes in effort to bridge 'word gap' in poor children

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted a high-tech idea in Providence, Rhode Island, to spread across the nation when his foundation gave $5 million to launch a program to improve the vocabularies of preschool children.

Three years later, more than 500 low-income families have strapped audio recorders on their toddlers that count each word they hear in a day. Social workers also visit homes to coach parents on talking more to their kids.

But it's still not clear if the Providence Talks initiative should be a national model to close the so-called "word gap" separating poor and wealthy households.

Brown University Professor James Morgan is an expert in early childhood literacy. He says it's a well-intentioned idea but he worries about how much is being devoted to an unproven solution.