LENA for Libraries
Libraries across the country are partnering with LENA to help parents boost infants' and toddlers' brain development.
Libraries around the country — large and small, urban and rural alike — have found LENA Start parent-group classes to be a valuable tool for engaging families of infants and toddlers. LENA Start is an evidence-based community program designed to help families learn how to increase conversation with their children during the first few years of life. The program can be delivered virtually, in person, or through a combination of in-person and virtual sessions. The three-month program can help with:
Supporting healthy early literacy practices like talking, reading, and singing
Providing caregivers with unique, actionable data on how their actions are impacting their children’s development
Enticing new families in the door and into connection with library resources
Creating a safe space for families from vulnerable populations to connect, organize, and unite
Encouraging native language reclamation and a celebration of bilingualism in families who speak minoritized languages (LENA works in every language!)
Quickly launching a turnkey virtual family engagement program that can easily be incorporated into existing systems of outreach
"I just trust the library. I grew up with a library card as a small child, and my mom did library work early in her life. I was taught that if you don't know something, you can go to the library and there are people there who can help you find it. When the library said, ‘Hey, we have a program that’s helpful for children, even infants to 33 months of age,’ I said, ‘Oh wow!’"
— Yolanda Fennick, a LENA Start parent at Pikes Peak Library District, Colo.
What implementers are saying about LENA Start in libraries:
“We want every child to be able to read and be literate. We emphasize early literacy skills by educating parents on five practices — talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing. LENA fits in with our mission, because it emphasizes talk and parent education, which are some of our goals in the children’s department.”
“What I love about having the LENA Start class at the library is that we create a habit of going to the library in these families. When we talk to families in focus groups, they say that they used to come to the library maybe once a month or less. After LENA Start, they’re starting to come every week. I know a lot of them stay connected after the class — they make friendships and support groups.”
“By expanding LENA Start through our Talk Read Sing program to local community organizations that provide services to high-need communities, we are able to strengthen our reach for providing families with early literacy engagement for their babies. The Talk Read Sing collaboration perfectly fits our mission to create opportunities for growth and enrichment in the communities we serve.”
“LENA has a very nice plug-and-play curriculum, where you can add information that's specific to your community but you're still on message during the program. ... It has a great impact, seeing the families sharing with one another. There was also over time a subtle impact that I noticed to our staff.”
“This is not your grandmother’s library. We’re asking how the library changes and adapts as less things are in print, and more things are available digitally so that it remains a valuable resource in the community. We see LENA as being a really valuable piece in terms of using technology to help us meet those goals.”
“One of the greatest things we are learning about working with LENA Start at the Denver Public Library has been about how deep and authentic our community connections have been while working with families.”
Want to learn more? Check out our webinars, blog posts, and videos about how libraries across the country are partnering with LENA.
Libraries as innovators in early childhood education
Introduction: LENA for Libraries
Learning together: Increasing staff and family commitment to early literacy at Phoenix Public Library
Survey results tell us that families’ enthusiasm for LENA Start has held steady more than a year into the pandemic. Three personal family stories show us why.
Working from home while caring for a baby is an all-too-familiar juggling act these days. A mom in Phoenix tells her story of how LENA Start helped.
Families who participated in LENA Start provided increasingly rich home language environments for their children, expanding how much they talked to and with them over the duration of the three-month class, compared to families who did not attend, a new study has found.
Outcomes that will last a lifetime
Researchers at Iowa State University found that families who attended LENA Start at the Ames Public Library increased adult-child talk and conversational turns significantly more than families who just visited the library or attended library programs.
This suggests that LENA Start is a valuable add-on to existing library programming, offering unique training and tools for families that can’t be achieved through storytimes or casual visits alone. These classes are a way to make a meaningful, measurable difference for young children in your community.