LENA Start's good works come to an end in Pensacola


  • January 9, 2020
  • /   Reggie Dogan
  • /   early-learning
LENA Start parent with baby

Since 2015, LENA Start has helped parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers to close the early-talk gap and support their child’s kindergarten readiness.

In 2017, Studer Community Institute, in a partnership with the Escambia County Early Learning Coalition, brought LENA Start to Pensacola, the first in Florida.

SCI’s LENA Start reached 64 families in the parent education program to help prevent and reduce children’s achievement gaps by improving interactive talk during a baby’s first three years.

Pensacola’s LENA Start initiative ended in December, but the program’s impact will carry on for years to come.

The program is credited with motivating parents to talk more and give them the tools to help close the achievement gap.

Outcomes show that babies who caregivers have participated in LENA Start build five months of language development in two months.

LENA Start focused on helping parents build good talk habits that will have an impact during the programs weekly sessions by providing parents with a powerful resource to keep talk top of mind.

Of the 64 families participating, 69 percent completed the 13-week classes, and parents reported reading over one and a quarter times as much with their children at graduation compared with the start of the program.

The children whose parents in the program gained nearly 1.7 months of developmental skill every month. So, rather than falling further behind, the children are actually catching up and surpassing their peers. 

92 percent of families who completed pre- and post-Parent Survey showed gains in total scores of increasing talk and conversational turns, indicating positive influences on parent perceptions and interactive behaviors.

The 13-week sessions reached parents across a wide spectrum of socio-economic classes. The host sites included First Presbyterian Child Discovery Center, Ministry Village Early Learning Center at Olive Baptist Church, St. Mark United Methodist Church (Pace Center for Girls), Area Housing Commission’s Moreno and Attucks courts, Kid’s Club Child Care and the West Florida Public Library System. 

LENA Start is a curriculum based on that idea of giving parents real-life techniques, tools and support to talk more, tune in to their young children and take more turns talking, singing and playing together.

LENA technology is recognized as the industry standard for measuring talk with children birth to 3 years old, a critical factor in early brain development.

The sessions included, among other things, a curriculum of lessons, activities, videos and table exercises.

Among the most critical parts of the program is the digital recorder, or “talk pedometer.” It is tucked into a vest worn by babies and toddlers (up to 30 months) to record a full day’s worth of talking.

That data is used to generate a report that provides information on the number of words that the child is exposed to as well as the turn-taking interaction, the back and forth that occurred in the child’s language environment throughout the day.

The recordings are uploaded to LENA headquarters, which generated reports that showed how much the parents talked with their children and discuss strategies to help parents talk more throughout the program and as the child continued to develop and grow.

Since its genesis n 2015, LENA Start has been implemented by school districts, hospitals, library systems and other social service organizations.

Results from initial implementations overall show an 83 percent graduation rate, with improvements in four key areas:

--- 75 percent of adult caregivers are speaking more to their babies.

--- 63 percent of families are having more conversations with their babies.

--- Families reported reading 57 percent more with their babies than before.

LENA Start is an important tool to help parents gain the skills needed to talk more, tune in and take turns in conversations with their babies and toddlers. All of those tools and skills will be important for their child’s later success in school and beyond.

SCI is proud to have been introduced LENA Start in Pensacola and in Florida. The program played a role in the mission to improve quality of life by preparing children for kindergarten.

Pensacola LENA Start highlights include:

— 64 participating families, with a 69 percent graduation rate.

—52 of 64 families returned surveys.

— 5 out of 5 on usefulness of what you learned, LENA reports, (parent guide got a 4.8).

— 5 out of 5 on likely to recommend.

— All reported the data was valuable, that they would use the techniques moving forward, talking tips easy to apply to real life.

— All families increased adult words by 17 percentile points, turns by 13. Low talk families (who started with words and turns under 50th percentile), gained 41 percentile points in words and 20 percentile points in turns.

— Children whose parents participated in program gained 1.7 months of developmental skill every month. All children gained 16 percentile points; low talk family children gained 17 percentile points.

— Parents in the program increased reading minutes by 1.5 times in course of the program, up to 24 minutes per day on average.