Katherine Bryan is a program officer at the Urban Child Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the education, health, and well-being of young children in Shelby County. The Urban Child Institute is the primary funder of the local partnership broadening their collective impact approach to scale early childhood programming in Memphis, Tennessee. Here, she shares about why UCI invested in LENA programs and how early investments have the potential to move the needle on kindergarten readiness.
LENA loves being a part of your work in Memphis. Describe the need you’re able to address by using LENA’s programming.
As an evidence-based program designed to educate parents about early language development and provide weekly feedback to promote greater awareness of and improvements in their child’s language environment, LENA [Start] is a great fit for several of our grantees. The fact that LENA can be implemented in three different settings is helping us with our objectives of increasing access to and utilization of high-quality home visiting programs, high-quality child care and effective parent training opportunities.
What are you most proud of when you reflect on the work with LENA with families and educators?
I am proud of their willingness to try something that they initially have reservations about, to follow through with the program, and then talk up the benefits among their peers to encourage more families and educators to participate.
One thing that strikes me in the work of Seeding Success is the myriad outcomes for children — especially in areas like a child’s ability to self-help.
Have there been any outcomes that have surprised or particularly intrigued you?
The enthusiasm and pride of the families and teen parents who have completed the program is striking to me. I have attended several graduation ceremonies and am impressed with how significant the program is to the participants in terms of enhancing their education about early literacy and motivating their actions. I also am struck by the fact that the families frequently report a strong bond with one another that they plan to maintain.
When Urban Child Institute’s Board of Directors considered funding for LENA’s programming, what do you think stood out most in the decision-making?
Like I explained in my first answer, LENA programs are a great fit for us. Additionally, the data analysis and data management support from the national LENA office is a selling point. The fact that organizations can implement LENA without necessarily adding staff for data entry, data analysis, and reporting is a significant plus.
What do you hope other funders or decision makers know about LENA, or your work in Memphis with LENA?
I would like them to know that LENA is a scalable, high-impact intervention for children under age three and that, if implemented correctly and sustained over at least three to five years, it has the potential to significantly affect kindergarten readiness and grade-level reading in our community.
(If you have one) Is there a family or story that encapsulates for you the value of LENA for families, educators, or children?
As I mentioned earlier, the testimonies of the families have been very powerful. At the graduation I most recently attended, there was a line of families waiting patiently for their turn to speak at the podium about their experience in the program – it seemed that when the opportunity was opened up beyond the scheduled testimonials, every family there got up and wanted to share. And the strong representation of fathers participating in the program is encouraging as well.