LENA Start Reflections & Funding Announcement

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The end of the year is a time when we reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. As I look back on 2018, I’m so proud of all the great work our team here at LENA has done, especially the continued growth of our parent program, LENA Start. This program has successfully replicated in over 20 communities across the country and has reached more than 2,200 families. We have sites that have now been running LENA Start for four years! Over the past year, we’ve introduced this program to seven new communities and are looking forward to continued expansion in 2019.

  • A collaborative in Marathon County, Wisconsin, brought together funding from diverse community partners, including local employers and healthcare organizations. LENA Start groups are being implemented by team members from the public library, Medical College of Wisconsin, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Northcentral Technical College, North Central Health Care, and Barrington Head Start. They’ve already served 60 families in just nine months and look forward to expanding their program in 2019.
  • The Concilio in Dallas, Texas, received funding this summer from two local philanthropic organizations to launch LENA Start in three school districts across the Dallas metro area. With over 48 families participating in the first wave of groups and more than 70 planned for the next semester, they are well on their way to more than doubling their Year 1 goals.
  • Musser Public Library in Muscatine, Iowa, has been building interest for LENA Start in their community for several years and was able to fully fund their program launch this fall. They plan to launch parent groups in early 2019.
  • Oakland Schools, an intermediate school district in Waterford, Michigan, was officially approved by their board in November and they are excited to launch parent groups in early 2019 across their 28 school districts.
  • Learn to Earn Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, is bringing LENA Start, LENA Grow, and LENA Home, to their community to support their focus on promoting evidence-based practices that foster student success at critical junctures throughout a child’s education journey.

While many LENA Start partners identify and engage local funders to support their program, at times LENA has the opportunity to offer matching funds through the generosity of philanthropists who are interested in expanding the reach of LENA Start. In 2017, matching funds supported us in creating 11 new LENA Start partnerships, which are now entering their second year of operation. In 2018, a second donor provided funding for four new LENA Start sites that are currently in training.


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  • In Stockton, California, we’re pleased to partner with the University of the Pacific. As part of their Beyond Our Gates initiative as the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading backbone organization, they will be partnering with First 5 San Joaquin and the Maya Angelou Library to implement LENA Start parent groups, as well as offering LENA Home through home-visiting programs at the San Joaquin County Office of Education and El Concilio.
  • Phoenix Public Library is coming on board as our very first LENA partner in Arizona! As a leader in their community, PPL works with more than 150 partners to offer early literacy programming to parents and professional caregivers and is excited to add LENA Start to this portfolio.
  • Calgary Reads will be our first LENA Start partner in Canada! They will be implementing LENA Start through partnerships with Boys and Girls Club of Calgary and Calgary Public Library as a key tool for improving language development, school readiness, and reading skills for Calgary children.
  • Muscogee County, Georgia, is excited to launch LENA Start in 2019 as part of their Project LAUNCH Georgia Initiative to promote safe, supportive, and nurturing families.

As we reflect on the growth we’ve experienced in 2018, we’re also looking forward to what 2019 will bring for LENA Start. We’re pleased to announce that applications are now open for 2019 LENA Start Matching Funds! We’ll be reviewing and selecting applications from new communities across the country who are interested in implementing LENA Start. We’re looking for communities with strong partnerships and infrastructure to support successful replication of the LENA Start model. To learn more about this opportunity, schedule a call with our team! Applications are open and will be accepted on a rolling basis through March 15, 2019.

LENA Director of Growth Strategy Jess Simmons

Jess Simmons

Jessica Simmons is the Director of Growth Strategy at LENA and is thrilled to work with organizations across the country to support parents, children, educators, and communities in closing opportunity gaps. She brings over 14 years of experience in program design and replication, fund and partnership development, and program operations.

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