Detroit Partners With Bloomberg Philanthropies On Early Childhood Learning Innovation “313Speaks”

  • Mayor’s Office of Early Childhood will expand robust programming for children that increases their exposure to words and conversation
  • Crucial intervention for vocabulary building, brain development, and school readiness for children 0-4
  • Pilot year aims to graduate 275 families across eight sites throughout the city

DETROIT - The City of Detroit was selected as one of five cities that will replicate Providence Talks, an early childhood education program that empowers parents and caregivers with tools to support language development at a critical age and help children enter kindergarten classroom ready. The program, “313Speaks” will focus on conversation-driven cognitive development by supporting the role of parents and caregivers in children’s development, improving the systems that support them and creating a team of advocates to champion early childhood development in the city.

Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, through its What Works Cities initiative, Detroit is launching 313Speaks to serve children ages 0-4 and will use a combination of Playgroup, Home Visit and Language Environmental Analysis Start program (LENA) to support vocabulary development in neighborhoods across Detroit.

LENA Start uses recording technology to encourage turn-taking in conversations between caregivers and their toddlers; a practice that has been shown to build early vocabulary. The program provides families with a small recording device known as a ‘word pedometer’ that counts adult words spoken in a child’s presence, as well as the number of conversational interactions a child engages in during the day. Research shows that robust exposure to words and conversation—from birth to age four—is crucial for children’s vocabulary building and brain development.

313Reads, a Grade Level Reading campaign in Detroit, will oversee 313Speaks.

“We know that over 80% of a child’s brain development occurs before the age of three. We also know that exposure to language is a key driver of early literacy. For that reason, it’s critical to provide young children with a word-rich environment, said Eli Savit, Senior Advisor and Legal Counsel, City of Detroit.

"313Speaks builds on a nationally proven model that has demonstrated success in Detroit. We’re partnering in this effort with Brilliant Detroit, which has already been working with Detroit families using the technology at the core of 313Speaks.”

Building upon the successful 313Reads Campaign

The decision to coordinate this work through Brilliant Detroit locations under 313Reads, will allow a focus on excellence of programming at scale to as many families as possible through groups that are already working on language and literacy.

313Speaks will build on Brilliant Detroit’s “Kid Success Neighborhood” model for early childhood intervention, which addresses short term early childhood education needs by directly assisting parents and children with “wraparound” partners. Supplemental and supportive services related to education, health and family support are provided through home-based hubs in the middle of Detroit neighborhoods. Through this partnership, the city expects to reach approximately 3,000 families over the next three years--helping to put thousands of children on the path to early literacy.

Together, the City of Detroit and Brilliant Detroit believe that 313Speaks is key to achieving a vision of becoming a city that puts young children and families first.

What the early data reports

A Brown University study of Providence Talks found:

  • Children who participated in the program made significant gains in the number of words they heard and turns they took in conversations and in language development.
    • In the Home Visitation model, 56% of all children showed growth in the number of adult words they heard and 42% increased their number of turns taken in conversations.
    • In the Playgroup model, 73% of all the children showed growth in the number of adult words they hear daily and 56% increased their number of turns taken in conversations.
  • The largest gains were seen in children who started the furthest behind. These children, on average, showed a 51% growth in the number of adult words they hear daily, going from an average of 8,000 to over 12,100 words per day. This jump from the 11th to the 42nd percentile in eight months is substantial, moving from the lowest quartile of words heard to about the average level.
  • By the end of the program, children in the program showed, on average, a 15 percentile point increase in the Developmental Snapshot score, a tool used to measure a child’s development progress (or language skills).

Detroit will also receive the technology and software, including talk pedometer devices, software, and other tools required to implement 313Speaks.

For more information on the Providence Talks replication program, please visit