LENA Start
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LENA START is a free 10 week class for families with children from birth to 32 months old with the goal to help parents increase talk and encourage reading with their babies in those early years.

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Our Mission

We are committed to closing opportunity gaps in Spartanburg County by accelerating language development in children birth to 32 months old.

Our Story

Small Talk Spartanburg County is an initiative prompted by the Spartanburg Academic Movement's Wardlaw Institute for Continuous Improvement to address kindergarten readiness. Recognizing the long-term effects kindergarten readiness has on a child's life as well as a community's development, with the generous support of LENA and the Mary Black Foundation, the Library has partnered with local organizations to offer LENA Start and LENA Home classes in Spartanburg County.

Our Partners

We are grateful to all of our partners for their support of this program.

Visit the ‘Contact Us’ section below to become a partner in this movement supporting early literacy.



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To your baby's brain, the most important time in life is before the third birthday. Conversations with babies are a critical factor in brain development. Learn more ways to talk, read, and play with your baby and receive feedback with the LENA "talk pedometer."

LENA is a program intended for parents and caregivers of children from birth to 32 months old that incorporates wearable technology as well as a comprehensive curriculum to encourage interactive talk at home. LENA founders Terry and Judi Paul were inspired to establish LENA by the research and writings of Drs. Betty Hart and Todd Risley. Drs. Hart and Risley identified early language exposure as one of the most important factors affecting brain processing speed, brain structure and function, as well as IQ.

What is LENA Start?

LENA Start consists of 10 weekly hour-long sessions for groups of 10-20 parents. Sessions include slide presentations, videos, practical techniques, and regular feedback from LENA Coordinators to help parents talk more with their children. Each week throughout the program, LENA Start families complete a daylong recording with their child. At that week's LENA class, the caregiver then receives feedback in the form of a report to help them continue to improve.

LENA measures four things:

  • Adult word count
  • Interactions between the child and adults (conversational turns)
  • Minutes of electronics/TV sound
  • Self-reported reading minutes
LENA talk pedometer & shirt, stuffed elephant toy, LENA canvas bag

LENA encourages caregivers to enhance the language environment in the home by providing them with helpful tips to practice each day.

With LENA Start, you get:

  • Use of LENA technology during the program
  • Clear, entertaining lessons featuring videos and hands-on activities
  • Take-home parent materials
  • Easy-to-use Talking Tips to build conversations with your child every day
  • Sharing with other parents of young children
  • Free children's books to take home

What is LENA Home?

LENA Home is designed to add an early language focus to existing home visiting initiatives, and offers clear, built-in progress monitoring for caregivers, home visitors, program administrators and other key stakeholders. Each coaching session takes about 20 minutes to complete and covers foundational topics like dialogic reading and songs and rhymes. Currently, LENA Home sessions are solely supported by partnering organizations and recruitment is done internally.

For many reasons, children experience significantly variable levels of interactive talk with adults. Research shows that the amount of conversation children experience during the first few years of life varies widely, creating an early talk gap. Over time, the early talk gap becomes the achievement gap. The earlier we address this reality, the better.

A baby's brain develops rapidly between the ages of birth to 32 months old, building more than one million neural connections per second! Early language exposure, in particular interactive talk, is one of the strongest predictors of brain development. Interactive talk — also known as “conversational turns” — occur when a child and caregiver respond back-and-forth to each other. Studies involving early childhood development increasingly point to conversational turns, rather than adult words alone, as the key brain-building ingredient.

The language a child experiences is related to:

Early Language, Vocabulary, School Readiness, 3rd Grade Reading, High School Graduation, Life Outcomes

By teaching caregivers about the importance of interactive talk and equipping them with practical strategies to increase conversations every day, our mission is to close the opportunity gap for good.