LENA shapes early talk.


LENA is based on the belief that all parents have the ability to unlock their children’s social, emotional, and cognitive potential. We focus on increasing interactive talk because it has been proven to be a key factor in early brain development – and we focus on the earliest years because research points to those as the most critical. The feedback we provide helps parents improve talk and conversations with their children. The results are stronger families and children more prepared to succeed in school.

Our system is used worldwide to measure early language environments for research, intervention, and clinical use. Our methods are clear. They’re measurable. And they work.

What is LENA?

The LENA System™ is the industry standard for measuring talk with children birth to three, a critical factor in early brain development. Used all over the world, LENA will support your initiative to improve early language, to close gaps in cognitive, emotional, and social development, and to improve school readiness.

  • recordingRecording

    A full day of talk is captured by a small, child-safe recorder worn in a comfortable vest.

  • feedbackData & Feedback

    Recordings are translated into data about talk, provided in clear reports shared with families.

  • cloud-dataManagement & evaluation

    Secure online tools enable efficient program management with built-in, real-time measures of fidelity and effectiveness.

History and Mission

Our founders, Terry and Judi Paul, pioneered reading, math, and testing products used in 70,000 schools in the U.S. and over 50 countries worldwide. Through these efforts they were able to help hundreds of thousands of kids become better reading and math students, but they still felt they weren’t reaching many of the children who needed them the most, those who come to first grade knowing only 2,500 words when their peers know 10,000. Terry and Judi were inspired to establish the LENA Foundation by the research and writings of Drs. Betty Hart and Todd Risley. Drs. Hart and Risley identified talk environments in the first 24-36 months of life as the single most important determinant of language ability, IQ, and school success.

LENA is increasingly being used in the way Terry and Judi originally intended, as a key component in programs to accelerate language development of disadvantaged children. Together with LENA, we can make a difference in the lives of children worldwide.

Our mission is to accelerate language development to improve the cognitive, social, and emotional health of children birth to five and close achievement gaps.

We are a 501(c)(3) public charity based in Boulder, Colorado.

Watch Terry Paul describe the work and vision of LENA


Research since 1995 has proven that the spoken language babies experience, especially in the first 2-3 years of life, helps their brains develop – cognitively, emotionally, and socially. Children who experience too few words can suffer achievement gaps that affect their readiness for school and for life.
The LENA System measures the early language environment of children birth to 48 months. It consists of a compact digital recorder with clothing so a child can wear it comfortably; software that turns the recording into data; and a cloud-based system for managing the data. Feedback from LENA helps parents and caregivers increase the quantity and quality of interactive talk.
Actually LENA tracks a number of aspects of talk. Words are important but “conversational turns” are even more important – times when an adult says something and the child responds, or vice versa. Turns measure interactions, and according to research, they’re a very powerful predictor of brain growth. LENA also generates a reliable measure of the child’s language development.
A growing body of research – much of it done using LENA technology – shows that enriched talk environments improve all aspects of a child’s development. Of course, other elements are often needed, but talk is the foundation. Intervention programs using LENA have witnessed rapid growth in interactive language, along with related improvements in child behavior, self-control, engagement, social capital, and parent satisfaction.
All parents want what’s best for their children. But most parents think they talk more than they do because they have no real way to measure. Feedback on conversations (“turns”) is particularly helpful, because that kind of talk builds brains most but is harder to increase than just words. Ultimately, parents have the power; LENA technology just shows them how to use it.
In most versions of LENA, audio recordings are automatically deleted immediately after processing into data (number of words and turns, etc.). The recorder has no playback capability and the system doesn’t recognize the meanings of words, so no one can ever tell what the users talked about.
LENA recorders are completely safe. They meet U.S. and international standards for electronics and toys, and have no small parts that might come loose and create a choking hazard. Unlike cellphones, they don’t transmit; they use the same type of low-power processor used in hearing aids.
LENA has years of experience working with researchers and other professionals whose work is governed by very strict confidentiality rules. Data access is password-protected, and users can access only the data authorized for their roles. Data are stored in a secure data center compliant with all appropriate industry standards.
LENA technology has been proven in use worldwide for close to a decade, by researchers, clinicians, and interventionists. Its language statistics were validated in a large-scale study that established norms for words, turns, and child vocalizations. Every aspect of the LENA system has been extensively tested and calibrated in use through thousands of recordings in multiple languages, and widely documented in published research.

Leadership Team

Scientific Advisors

  • charles_greenwood

    Charles R. Greenwood, PhD


  • john_hansen

    John H.L. Hansen, PhD


  • judith_montgomery

    Judith K. Montgomery, PhD, CCC-SLP


  • d_oller

    D. Kimbrough Oller, PhD


  • soyeong_pae

    Soyeong Pae, PhD


  • keith_topping

    Keith J. Topping, PhD


  • steven_warren

    Steven F. Warren, PhD


  • christine_yoshinaga-itano

    Christine Yoshinaga-Itano, PhD


  • betty_vohr

    Betty R. Vohr, MD