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Providence wins philanthropy challenge

Mayor Angel Taveras’ idea aims to improve literacy skills for children from low-income families

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, March 14, 2013

Providence won the $5 million grand prize in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge yesterday, according to a press release from Mayor Angel Taveras’ office. The contest­ — sponsored by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s charitable organization — called for submissions of inventive ideas to improve life and solve problems faced by cities across the country.

Taveras’ winning idea, called “Providence Talks,” will attempt to increase vocabulary learning and literacy in underprivileged children by supplying low-income families with portable voice recorders to track the number and type of words and conversations exchanged in the household over the course of a month, the Associated Press reported. After these word and conversation totals are analyzed, families will receive counseling about how to best improve their children’s language skills.

The project aims to close the large vocabulary gap that exists between low- and high-income children before they start school — a gap of more than 30 million words by the time children are four years old, according to Taveras’ press release.

“Education is the path out of poverty­ — I know, because I have followed it,” Taveras told the AP. Taveras grew up in poverty in Providence’s South Side before attending Harvard to complete his undergraduate education and Georgetown University for law school.

The prize money will initially fund the implementation of the idea for a small number of families, but the number will grow to 2,850 families by 2018, the AP reported.

Submissions in the competition were judged for their creativity, feasibility and ability to spread to other cities. More than 300 cities across the nation submitted ideas in the contest, and 20 were chosen as finalists. Four other cities won awards of $1 million to implement their ideas — Philadelphia, Houston, Chicago and Santa Monica, Calif.


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