Support for Families to Boost Children’s Early Learning

Ready/Ready is celebrating along with families the first LENA Start programs in Guilford County. One of the programs, presented by Parents as Teachers Guilford County, recently graduated all its families.

LENA Start helps a parent develop interactive talking habits with their child and provides parents with powerful resources. Weekly group sessions teach parents why talk matters and how conversation or “serve and return” can help build babies brains. Parents also share at the session what’s happening at home with their child, complete developmental surveys, and learn how they can positively impact behavior.

The early literacy strategic plan for Guilford County includes strategies aimed at increasing the confidence of families in their ability to prepare children for literacy success. The plan also supports building parents’ skills to promote literacy at home. The LENA Start program aligns with both aims as well as promotion of shared or “Active Reading.”

Technology plays a big part in the LENA Start program. A digital recorder, or “fit bit” for talking is placed into a vest worn by babies and toddlers to record a full day’s worth of talking between parent and child each week.

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 amount of turn-taking interaction, or “serve and return”.

The recorder does not track what words parents and children are saying or hearing. Instead, it captures conversational turns between child and adult, electronic or other noise versus human talk, and how often the child attempts to communicate.

Shared or “active reading” is a focus in the program. The families in the Parents as Teachers LENA Start program reported reading over one and a half times as much with their children at graduation compared with the start of the program. Other positive outcomes for the group were captured in the developmental survey taken by parents throughout the program. The children whose parents participated in the PATGC program reported gains of over 2 months of developmental skill every month as well as increased awareness about child development and stronger sense of community engagement.

Research shows that the more words children hear in the first three years of life builds the brain structure that will be needed later to support reading and thinking skills. Those early language skills can also lead to continued academic success later in life. LENA Start outcomes show an increase of as much as 5 months of language development during the 13-week program.

Reading Connections and Greensboro Housing Authority are two other partners hosting LENA Start programs. We look forward to continuing to expand this work throughout Guilford County this year.

For more information about how your organization can host a LENA Start program or refer a family, contact Michelle Chapin, Ready/Ready project manager, at