Responsive adult-child interactions, known as conversational turns, are among the most predictive metrics of child outcomes. Yet only four percent of children 18-24 months old consistently receive the optimal level of interaction in childcare settings.
LENA supports young children’s parents, caregivers, and educators with evidence-based programs designed to encourage meaningful adult-child interactions. Its small wearable device for children, often referred to as a “talk pedometer,” measures conversational turns, delivering language environment data that helps adults increase interactive conversation and highlights opportunities to improve classroom quality and child outcomes.
LENA Grow—the organization’s newest and fastest-growing program—utilizes this talk pedometer technology to offer professional development and individualized strengths-based coaching for early childhood educators. While other LENA programs already had robust evidence of effectiveness, Grow demonstrated potential impact through internal data but had limited external research.
In 2021, LENA launched two independent studies to assess the impact of Grow: a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in collaboration with SproutFive, a childcare provider in Columbus, OH, and a quasi-experimental study in collaboration with Next Door, a childcare provider in Milwaukee, WI. Both studies found positive outcomes, aligned to three areas:
- Grow teachers increased conversational turns after participating in the program;
- Grow teachers increased their job satisfaction compared to non-Grow teachers; and
The RCT in Columbus found that children in Grow classrooms experienced larger gains in language and literacy skills, compared to children in non-Grow classrooms. The quasi-experimental study in Milwaukee found similar benefits of Grow on Head Start students’ literacy skills.
In Columbus, children enrolled in Grow classrooms saw a statistically significant increase in conversational turns of 13 percent. Children with interaction levels below the national average saw even greater gains, experiencing 80 percent more interaction by the end of the program than they had at the beginning. This increased interaction was also associated with child-level outcomes on standardized measures. Participating children in Columbus saw pre/post average scaled score increases of 39 points on the TS GOLD® child literacy assessment, compared to a loss of two points for their counterparts who did not participate in Grow.
Although more research is needed, this enhanced strength of evidence provides current and potential LENA partners and policymakers a better understanding of the Grow program’s potential impact and the value of expanding its reach to even more families and educators.
Overdeck Family Foundation has supported LENA since 2017, when it reached around 6,000 children through its programming. Our funding has helped the organization continue to innovate on its program model and generate rigorous evidence to boost performance of early language outcomes, as well as scale to reach 29,000 children in 2023. Carly Roberts, Associate Program Director of Out-of-School Learning at the Foundation, has served on LENA’s Board of Directors since 2020. In addition, the Foundation has provided capacity-building support focused on helping LENA better understand and reduce its cost per user as well as enhance its data capacity.