Helping communities boost school readiness and improve child outcomes through early talk

Who are we?

LENA is a national nonprofit on a mission to transform children’s futures through early talk technology and data-driven programs.

Learn more about why early talk matters!

Why focus on early talk?

Each year, 4 million children1 enter kindergarten in the United States. Of these, about 25 percent2 arrive in the classroom without the academic, social, emotional, and self-regulatory skills they need to thrive at school. But why?

The answer is far from simple — there’s a complex web of factors that affect children’s early development. At LENA, we’ve identified a starting point: early talk. Early talk is one of the most important factors shaping children’s brain development during the first few years of life. To understand why early talk matters, it’s helpful to understand what science tells us about child development during the first few years of life:

  • Brains are built from the ground up. Unlike other organs, the human brain is unfinished at birth, and must be built through interactions with adults. Research shows that back-and-forth interactions with adult caregivers are one of the most powerful tools to create a firm foundation of healthy brain architecture for children.
  • During the first three years of life, infant and toddler brains are forming more than 1 million neural connections every second, the Harvard Center on the Developing Child reports. That means that these years offer a unique developmental opportunity.

Just as babies need healthy food to help their bodies grow and develop, they need “language nutrition” from caregivers to help their brains grow, develop, and reach their full potential. LENA’s research indicates that most adults tend to overestimate how much they talk with children, and those who talk the least tend to overestimate the most.

That’s where LENA’s technology-based programs come in. LENA helps communities all over the world provide programs for parents and teachers that couple actionable feedback with coaching to make proven, sustainable improvements to children's language environments. The results are stronger families, improved classroom quality, improved socioemotional development, and increased early literacy and school readiness.