Providence and the 32-million word problem

Well this is pretty cool.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has named Providence one of 20 finalists in its "Mayor's Challenge," which will dole out $9 million in grants to five cities with innovative ideas for tackling big problems.

The Providence proposal, one of 305 submitted this fall, aims to tackle the "vocabulary deficit." Research suggests low-income children hear 32 million fewer words than their peers in professional-class families by age four.

The plan calls for using technology and home visits to measure children's auditory environments and close vocabulary gaps in real time.  Other cities' proposals include an urban homesteading initiative that would transfer foreclosed properties to citizens who would put the land into productive use and an online system to streamline city permitting the way online tax software streamlined personal income tax filing.

Representatives from the 20 cities, which range from High Point, North Carolina, to San Francisco, will meet in New York City November 12 and 13 to work, collaboratively, on improving each others' proposals. Winners will be announced in the spring.


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