Putting a bow on 2018 and looking forward to 2019


Photo montage of LENA families and teachers in 2018

It is with deep gratitude that I look back on 2018 and all the energy that has gone into creating better outcomes for children and families this year. With the dedication of our staff here in Boulder and beyond, and especially the amazing efforts of our partners across the country, we have crossed several notable thresholds this year:

  • 6,000 new child/family participants – our goal for 2018!
  • 40,000 LENA Days processed
  • 10 million conversational turns

These are all a sign of the growing use and impact of LENA in the US and around the world. We continue to have the good fortune of bringing on new program partners, and, with the aid of generous philanthropic support, are now able to award matching funds grants to expand the reach of LENA Start even further in 2019! This is only possible because of the impressive results and outcomes that have been achieved across our network of LENA Start sites.

In addition, 2018 was a banner year for new research on early brain development and conversational turns, underscoring the value of programs that help caregivers increase interactive talk. In October, Shannon Rudisill moderated a webinar with the lead researchers on key studies published this year, Drs. Rachel Romeo and Jill Gilkerson. There’s naturally been a lot of interest in this amazing trio of papers, particularly because they all point to the same conclusion: interactive talk is an essential ingredient to healthy development.

LENA Grow, our program for early childhood teachers, has also continued to surpass expectations. We now have 19 LENA Grow partners (and counting) and will be launching an updated version of the program factoring feedback and insights from the field at the end of January. Stay tuned for more details then, but I’m excited to note that LENA Grow 2.0 includes simplified reporting, a streamlined coaching sequence, updated online resources, and a full suite of new tools to support implementation.

Behind the scenes, but making all of our programs possible, our LENA Online team released 11 major versions of the software this year, with a total of 285 improvements.

Beyond our own work at LENA, I have a real sense of optimism about the early childhood space in general. Case in point: Early Futures. In late November, I was privileged to participate in the Early Futures gathering in San Jose, hosted by Promise Venture Studio, Omidyar Network, and Sesame Workshop. It was a heady gathering of early childhood thought leaders, subject matter experts, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and investors focused on nurturing and catalyzing sustainable, systems-level change in the first five years. You can read more here to understand the motivation and vision for this important set of steps in the right direction.

I’m humbled by all that has been accomplished in 2018, and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the direction we’re heading. I’m thoroughly excited about the road ahead and all that 2019 will bring as we work toward our vision of all children entering school prepared for success.

Wishing you the best this holiday season,

Steve and the entire LENA Team

Stephen M. Hannon, PhD

Dr. Stephen M. Hannon is the President and CEO of LENA and is thrilled to lead a team of talented people on a mission to close the achievement gap. He brings a wealth of technical and leadership skills spanning a 20-plus year career.

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