The city of Providence, R.I., won first place in the Mayors Challenge, a contest of innovative ideas, to track how many words children younger than age 5 are exposed to each day. The $5 million award, from Bloomberg Philanthropies, will fund an early-literacy program in which word counts and conversational turns will be tracked with audio devices, and parents will be coached on ways to boost literacy. Proposals from the mayors of Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Santa Monica, Calif., also were chosen among more than 300 entries to receive $1 million each.

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