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LENA Start Child Development Program Supports Sustained Improvements in Child Language Skills

D65 Family Center and the Evanston Public Library provide an ongoing and engaging 10-week program to stimulate brain development in children 0-3 years old.

Since February 2021, District 65 Family Center has partnered with the Evanston Public Library and implemented LENA Start. This program uses research-backed methods to encourage and support early talk in children ages 0 to 3. 

LENA Start is an evidence-based group program for families that uses regular feedback from LENA technology to help increase interactive talk between adults and young children. For ten weeks, LENA Start provides parents and guardians with a “talk pedometer” that records rudimentary data about their child’s speech activity and analyzes it to produce objective feedback on their development of language skills. Participants also attend virtual meetings to get personalized, professional feedback, learn strategies for engaging with their children, and initiate more robust back-and-forth conversations at home.

The Family Center received a 2-year grant to provide the LENA Start Child Development Program. They are partnering with the Evanston Public Library to support Evanston’s goal of Every Child Ready for Kindergarten and District 65’s goals of educational equity and narrowing the achievement gap. They have already provided successful sessions for English and Spanish speakers. Participants from the first cohorts offered positive feedback from their experience, and most participants recognized a positive change in their child’s language skills:

“Being part of the LENA program was such an important part of my journey as a new parent. Not only did it build community, but it increased my confidence in myself- knowing that how I was speaking and interacting with my child was contributing positively to his future development. I still use the example and lessons when we go about our regular day. The program has bonded my son and me together in more ways than I could have imagined. He loves books, and reading together is something so special to us. I highly recommend this program.”

“LENA Start was eye-opening for me, from counting how many words I was using and when to be cognizant of responding to all of my infant's coos. I can, without hesitation, say that I am better equipped to build my child's vocabulary and love for reading due to participating in the LENA Start program. I would highly recommend the program to all parents!”   

Children and caregivers that participate in the LENA Start Program experience richer language environments, higher early literacy scores, and stronger family relationships. Talk is the foundation of early literacy, and evidence shows that it is essential in childhood brain development. For example, one longitudinal data analysis showed that LENA Start kids saw sustained language skills improvements a full year after participating in the program.

Any parent or guardian caring for a young child in Evanston is encouraged to participate in this program. The next virtual cohort begins in February 2022, and another will start in the spring. The 10-week sessions will be held virtually, and cohort members will establish a mutual day and time to meet that works for the group.

To find out more, please contact Ketia Kachoris at kachorisk@district65.net or Laura Antolin at lantolin@cityofevanston.org. Spanish: Xiomara Alfaro-Mayan at alfarox@district65.net.