I was proud to travel to Washington this week to take part in the first-ever White House conference on bridging the 30-million word gap, and to talk about how we are tackling this issue in Providence through “Providence Talks.” Research shows that children growing up in low-income households hear approximately 30 million fewer words than children growing up in middle-income and affluent families by the time they reach their fourth birthday. This translates into difficulty learning how to read, communicating with others, and achieving academic success.
In our city, through Providence Talks and Providence Reads, and together with our school department and many others, we are taking important steps to increase grade-level reading, foster school readiness, promote summer learning, and improve school attendance to ensure we give our kids the tools they need to be successful. And, we are seeing our efforts pay off.
In 2012, Providence was named an All-America City for Grade Level Reading by the National Civic League. In 2013, Providence was named a Community Pacesetter by the Campaign for Grade Level Reading for our work to ensure that more low-income children are reading on grade level by the end of third grade. Between 2005 and 2013, Providence’s 4th grade reading proficiency rate increased from 31% to 52%, with an increase from 43% to 52% in just the past year. And, just this week, our school department released a report showing a four-year reduction in chronic absenteeism.
While there is more to do, it is important to recognize that these successes come as a result of many people and organizations working together to give our children every chance at success. We thank our foundation partners and the many government and nonprofit organizations that work with our children every day, including: Providence Public Schools; Bloomberg Philanthropies; the Annie E. Casey Foundation; Rhode Island Foundation; Rhode Island Kids Count; the Providence Children and Youth Cabinet; Children’s Friend; Family Service of Rhode Island; Federal Hill House; Meeting Street; Ready to Learn Providence; Reach Out and Read Rhode Island; Books Are Wings; Boys & Girls Clubs; Inspiring Minds; our community libraries and many, many more.
These organizations and each of the people involved in them make a difference in our community and in the lives of our students.