History and Mission


Our mission is to accelerate language development in children birth to three, in order to improve their cognitive, social, and emotional health and to close opportunity gaps.

LENA History in pictures

The History of LENA

LENA is a national nonprofit that was founded in 2004 by the late Terry Paul and his wife Judi, entrepreneurs who pioneered reading, math, and testing products used in 70,000 schools in the United States and more than 50 countries worldwide.

Terry Paul, founder of LENAThese products have helped hundreds of thousands of students to become better readers and mathematicians at school, but the Pauls realized that the foundational skills children need to excel academically were being laid long before they arrived in the classroom.

Preschool with LENA TechnologySearching for answers, Terry read “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children,” a book that lays out the findings of Hart and Risley, two researchers who were the first to study differences in the home language environment.

Inspired by their work — which involved transcribing and analyzing hundreds of hours of audio over more than two years — he decided to attempt to automate the task of objectively measuring adult-child conversation. After six years of development and substantial financial investment, LENA technology was born.

Fifteen years later, LENA has become the industry standard for measuring early talk, used by communities all over the world in programs for families and teachers. In keeping with Terry and Judi’s original vision to level the playing field for children experiencing inequities, LENA’s programs utilize the technology to couple actionable feedback with coaching to help adults make proven, sustainable increases in the quality and quantity of talk with children. The unique measurement tool has also fueled research breakthroughs in neuroscience and child development, as scientists explore how interactive conversation with children changes their brains and is linked to long-term outcomes.

The LENA Team in 2019As LENA continues to scale the reach and impact of its programs — reaching more than 10,000 children in 2019 on the way to even loftier goals — we dream of achieving Terry and Judi’s vision of ensuring every child enters kindergarten ready to succeed.

Watch Terry Paul describe the work and vision of LENA: