LENA Start is a FREE 10-week class for families with children ages birth to 36 months. The goal of the program is to help parents increase talk, which encourages their babies' literacy and brain growth.
LENA incorporates wearable technology and a comprehensive curriculum to encourage interactive talk at home. LENA founders Terry and Judi Paul were inspired to establish LENA by the research and writings of Drs. Betty Hart and Todd Risley. Drs. Hart and Risley identified early language exposure as one of the most important factors affecting brain processing speed, brain structure and function, and IQ.
LENA Start will be offered at Butman-Fish Library in Fall 2022.
What Happens at LENA Start Sessions?
LENA Start consists of 10 weekly hour-long sessions for groups of 10-20 parents. Sessions include slide presentations, videos, practical techniques, and regular feedback from LENA Coordinators to help parents talk more with their children. Each week throughout the program, LENA Start families complete a daylong recording with their child. At that week's LENA class, the caregiver then receives feedback in the form of a report to help them continue to improve.
LENA measures four things:
- Adult word count
- Interactions between the child and adults (conversational turns)
- Minutes of electronics/TV sound
- Self-reported reading minutes
LENA encourages caregivers to enhance the language environment in the home by providing them with helpful tips to practice each day.
With LENA Start, you get:
- Use of LENA technology during the program
- Clear, entertaining lessons featuring videos and hands-on activities
- Take-home parent materials
- Easy-to-use Talking Tips to build conversations with your child every day
- Sharing with other parents of young children
- Free children's books to take home
Why does early talk matter?
For many reasons, children experience significantly variable levels of interactive talk with adults. Research shows that the amount of conversation children experience during the first few years of life varies widely, creating an early talk gap. Over time, the early talk gap becomes the achievement gap. The earlier we address this reality, the better.
A baby's brain develops rapidly between the ages of birth to 32 months old, building more than one million neural connections per second! Early language exposure, in particular interactive talk, is one of the strongest predictors of brain development. Interactive talk - also known as "conversational turns" - occur when a child and caregiver respond back-and-forth to each other. Studies involving early childhood development increasingly point to conversational turns, rather than adult words alone, as the key brain-building ingredient.
The language a child experiences is related to:
- The child's brain processing speed
- The child's kindergarten readiness and success transitioning to kindergarten
- The child's verbal abilities and subsequent vocabulary acquisition
- The child's brain structure and function
- The child's IQ, verbal comprehension and linguistic skills 10 years later
By teaching caregivers about the importance of interactive talk and equipping them with practical strategies to increase conversations every day, our mission is to close the opportunity gap for good.
Partnerships and Grant Funding
The Public Libraries of Saginaw is partnering with the Bay County Library System to offer LENA Start. BCLS received generous grants from Hemlock Semiconductor Community and Regional Empowerment (CARE) Grant Program and the Bay Area Community Foundation.