For Pamela Robinson, a family child care provider in Georgia, using LENA Grow was an opportunity to show parents all the brain-building interaction that happens during the day in her home as she watches children.
She’s been a child care provider for nine years, but this was the first time she could go to parents and say, “This will show you exactly what you’re paying me for.”
“It has actual data to show what you’re doing, and that’s the difference,” she said. “Usually, you go to a training, they give you a whole bunch of stuff, and you take it home and lay it on the table and never pick it back up. But this one was different — I still remember it; having the book and certificate of being a certified teacher on the wall made it personal. It’s been a year, and I’m still talking about it and advocating for it.”
She used the LENA Grow professional development program for several months in 2019 with three of the children she teaches, Logan, Elijah, and KeahMae. At the beginning, KeahMae barely talked. Robinson dedicated herself to increasing talk and interaction with her, particularly using “lots of theatrics” during story time, and began to see results.
“You want to see those stars and you want that green,” she said with a laugh. “When you see the data, you see everything that you as a teacher need to work on in yourself. If you put a lot in, you’re going to get a lot out. You’re going to see the results of what you’re putting in having conversations with that child,” she said. “After I got LENA, KeahMae talked all the time.”
The data also helped her to dialogue with families and discuss strategies for increasing talk and interaction at home, too.
“I showed the reports to each individual child’s parents and said, ‘This is what I’m doing in school, and I need you to help me with this, too.’ I talked to them and explained how the data works and how to talk to a child. I explained how you can respond, even if you don’t know what they’re saying,” she said.
She posted LENA’s Conversation Starters and other materials all over her home, and used the new curriculum topic each week as a starting point for communicating with families, sharing specific ideas for talking with each child.
“If you’re sincere about making a difference in children’s lives, this is the number one step."
“The most valuable part to me is that it lets a parent know what you’re doing for literacy and the child’s literacy level,” Robinson said.
Funding for Robinson’s participation in the program was provided through a short-term grant from Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning. Even more than a year after completing it, she’s still preaching the LENA gospel to other centers and FCC providers and would like to find long-term funding to continue.
“If you’re sincere about making a difference in children’s lives, this is the number one step,” she said.