LENA’s programs are built on a foundation of three truths:
1. Early talk shapes a child’s life.
You can think of it like the links in a chain:
We know early talk is the key influence on early language development.
Early language leads to vocabulary and kindergarten readiness.
Kindergarten readiness strongly predicts 3rd-grade reading scores, and 3rd-grade reading is a central factor in high school graduation rates — which in turn heavily influence success in life.
Each one of these factors has been heavily researched, so we know it's all connected: if you want a better educated and more successful population, you have to address early talk.
2. Parents (and other conversational partners) are the secret sauce.
Increasing interactive talk not only supports responsive caregiving and cognitive development, but it also links to emotional health, social skills, self-control, and the ability to learn.
Research indicates that parents overestimate how much they talk, and those who talk the least actually overestimate the most.
The challenge in early child care settings can be even steeper. Early childhood teachers deal with multiple children at once, and tending to their primary physical needs generally takes priority. There can be a perception that a quiet room is a successful room, so talk levels are often low.
It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing the talk gap — that’s why LENA has developed a range of programs including a home visiting model, a model for child care, a model for language researchers, and a parent group model.
3. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
As with any type of adult behavior change, regular feedback is needed to drive improvement.
What sets LENA-based initiatives apart is the fact that LENA tools are dual-purpose. They provide valuable information and objective feedback to parents. At the same time, the data supports direct evaluation of the initiative. This enables programs to learn and adapt rather than implement and hope.
But, it can’t just be about the technology. Behavior change is not easy, and caregivers need additional supports (tips, skills, and coaching) to go with the objective feedback that LENA provides. When the technology, like LENA, has been thoughtfully applied in context, there has been great success.