The number of words children hear in their very first days, months and years has a huge impact on their development.

Research shows that there can be an estimated gap of over 30 million words heard by children from more disadvantaged backgrounds by age four1, and children from higher-income families typically have twice the vocabulary size of children from lower-income families.

That’s why Home-Start is working with the American organisation, the LENA Foundation, to bring their language development project LENA Home ™ to the UK, with funding from the Department of Education, NESTA and the Department for Culture Media and Sports.

What is LENA HOME™?

LENA HOME™ involves trained coaches supporting parents to expand the frequency and range of conversations held with their young children.

Families are given free access to a 'word pedometer' device, worn by the child one day per week for 12 weeks. The device measures the number of words the child hears, differentiating between adult and child voice and electronic sounds. 

The data is analysed by software developed by LENA and then informs guided conversations about when and how to improve communications.

Home-Start home visiting volunteers have been specially trained to work with the pedometer and resulting graphs, sharing them with the family in a positive and accessible way each week.

To find out more about the importance of speech to children’s development and the work of the LENA Research Foundation, listen to our interview with Dr Steve Hannon, President of the LENA Foundation.

How does LENA HOME™ help families?

Used all over the world, LENA supports local initiatives to improve early language, to close gaps in cognitive, emotional, and social development, and to improve school readiness.

LENA HOME is shown to:

  • Increases in the quality and quantity of language interaction between parents and children birth-3 years
  • Increases in parental engagement and interaction with community based services that support early language development
  • Increases in parent’s confidence in ability to support their children’s early learning
  • Improvements in the home learning environment
  • Increases in volunteer competencies and capabilities to support home based early speech and language for young children

Where is Home-Start using LENA HOME?

Home Start UK is currently piloting LENA HOME™ using trained volunteers in Oldham, Southwark, Leeds and west Dorset, thanks to funding from the Department for Education.

Following the successful pilot, Home-Start UK has received £214,805 of funding from Nesta to expand this LENA HOME project to 21 new areas across the country.

Home-Start UK will train over 500 volunteers and helping over 900 more families to close the communication gap, ensuring that every child enters nursery and school ready to achieve and reach their full potential.

If you would like to find out more about Home-Start UK and the LENA HOME project please contact Emma Kirk, Early Years Case Manager for Home-Start UK, by email at [email protected]

Hart, Betty; Risley, Todd R (2003), The Early Catastrophe. The 30 Million Word Gap.