The LENA Start program uses a 'talk pedometer' to measure the adult words, conversation turns and ambient noise that a child hears in a day, providing feedback to parents so they can make the most of their verbal connections with their kids.

After announcing a new joint venture with the LENA Start program in September, Read Aloud Delaware had a successful launch in October and has been working with nine families throughout the state to help them measure, improve and make the most of verbal connections with their young children, representatives reported this week.

Read Aloud Delaware, a statewide organization dedicated to early childhood literacy for more than 35 years, recruited families with children from birth to 3 years old to participate in the joint venture’s initial sessions. The LENA Start program, headquartered in Boulder, Colo., was created to help close the language, learning and opportunity gaps for children.

The 10 children enrolled in the program have the adult words they hear, the conversational interactions they have and the ambient sounds within their environment measured by a device called a “talk pedometer.” Parents are provided with feedback and participate in an hour-long weekly Zoom workshop during the 10-week program. LENA facilitators offer simple techniques to help them increase their children’s exposure to oral language.

Parents are reacting positively to the program, according to Stacy Penaranda, Read Aloud Delaware’s Sussex County coordinator and a LENA facilitator.

“Parents feel that the LENA Start program is extremely valuable in augmenting their child’s development,” reported Penaranda.

Participation in the program is free, and families are offered incentives for meeting program milestones, including a free book each week and gift cards. Samantha Catts of Milton, whose son Ethan Barnes is enrolled in the program, said she is appreciative of Read Aloud’s generosity.

“Thank you so much,” said Catts. “I have learned a lot from the LENA program, and I’m so excited that Ethan and I get to be a part of it.”

Recruitment is under way for the next LENA Start session, which will run from Jan. 14 through March 18.

“We are grateful to the Delaware nonprofit and educational community for helping us recruit our first cohort of families,” acknowledged James Spadola, executive director of Read Aloud Delaware.

“As we recruit families for into Sussex the January 2021 cohort,” added Spadola, “we hope to broaden throughout the state with another diverse group. If you know anyone with a child ages 0-3 that wants to increase their child’s kindergarten readiness and build their brain while receiving incentives along the way, please send them our way!”

Interested families should register for a Read Aloud Delaware/LENA Start information session by visiting the Read Aloud Delaware website at readalouddelaware.org. The informational sessions take place via ZOOM on every Tuesday from 10 to 11 a.m.