One morning in September, Lissette Castrillón, a caseworker in Providence, Rhode Island, drove to an apartment on the western edge of town to visit Annie Rodriguez, a young mother, and her two-year-old daughter, Eilen. Castrillón and Rodriguez sat down on a worn rug and spoke about the importance of talking to very young children. They discussed ways to cajole a toddler into an extended conversation, and identified moments in the day when Rodriguez could be chatting more with Eilen, an ebullient little girl who was wearing polka-dot leggings.
“Whenever she’s saying a few new words, it’s important to tell her yes, and add to it,” Castrillón told Rodriguez. “So if she sees a car you can say, ‘Yes, that’s a car. It’s a big car. It’s a blue car.’ ”