LENA uses power of words to build babies’ brains

Parents Have the Power!

That’s what LENA Start reminds parents at the end of each session of the 13-week program designed to increase adult talk with children and conversational turns.


LENA website poignantly answers the question: “LENA is based on the belief that all parents have the ability to unlock their children’s social, emotional and cognitive potential.

“We focus on increasing interactive talk because it has been proven to be a key factor in early brain development — and we focus on the earliest years because research points to those as the most critical.

“The feedback we provide helps parents improve talk and conversations with their children. The results are stronger families and children more prepared to succeed in school.”

Since September, Studer Community Institute has led a weekly LENA Start class at First Presbyterian Child Discovery Center. The Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County hosts another site at Kid’s Club on Davis Highway.

LENA is an acronym for Language Environmental Analysis. The LENA system  measures how much and often parents and their children communicate.

A digital recorder, or “talk pedometer,” is tucked into a vest worn by babies and toddlers (up to age 3) to record a full day’s worth of conversation.

A LENA Recorder. Credit: LENA Research Foundation.

The data is used to generate a report that provides information on the number of words that the child was exposed to as well as the conversational turns — the back and forth that occurs in the child’s language environment during the day.

The goal of LENA is to close gaps in cognitive, emotional and social development, and to improve school readiness by building brains in babies.

The LENA System measures talk with children birth to three, a critical factor in early brain development. The power of talk is paramount in building babies’ brains.

LENA Corp. was created based on research as far back as 1995 that has proven that the spoken language babies experience, especially in the first two to three years of life, help their brains develop.

Studies show that talking more with babies is one of the most critical elements in their brain development. Most parents don’t know how much they’re talking to their babies. And almost all parents can do it more.

We could tell you a lot more about LENA, but it’s more compelling and complete to hear what parent are saying about it.

Emily Hogg said she always talked to her 2-year-old, but as a result of LENA she’s learned to be more specific.
“This program is refreshing, and you can talk to them about what you’re doing,” Hogg said. “I find myself describing everything more, which makes him want to help and be more engaged.”

Mary Brown and her husband, Wallace, have children ages 1 and 2.

“The class helps us realize that we may be talking at them and not to them,” Mary Brown said. “We now try to make sure we are on the right level with each child.”

Jessica Evans likes how the parent support talk is incorporated into the curriculum.

“This class allows me to realize others parents are going through some of the same things,” said Evans, a mother of a 10-month-old. “I like how we share ideas.”

Ellie White, a single mom, is impressed that her 1-year-old is progressing so well. White is particularly pleased with the talk tips, a strategy that provides 14 tips for parents to use to increase talk and conversational turns.

“My child is talking more since we started, and I feel like it’s because of this program,” White said.

Wallace Brown appreciates the reading tips and videos.

“They helped clarify what is appropriate for each child,” Wallace Brown said. “The videos were especially helpful.”

LENA tracks a number of aspects of talk. Words are important but “conversational turns” are even more important – times when an adult says something and the child responds, or vice versa.

Turns measure interactions, and according to research, they’re a very powerful predictor of brain growth. LENA also generates a reliable measure of the child’s language development.

It’s clear from the feedback that LENA Start helps parents improve talk and conversations with their children. The results are stronger families and children are more prepared to succeed in school.

The feedback and data reports from the program help parents improve talk and conversations with their children. The results are stronger families and children more prepared to succeed in school.

There are many things parents can give their children, but not much is more important — and powerful — than giving them your words.