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MCPL Wausau to Become State's First LENA Start Site

mother and young child reading

January 19, 2018

The first three years of a child's life are vital to brain development. Children from birth onward learn through talking, singing, reading, and playing. During these interactions, children learn how the world works, acquire vocabulary, stimulate different parts of their brain, as well as many other benefits.

While this may seem easy enough, some caregivers may simply not be talking enough or using a variety of words to build a child’s brain! This is where LENA Start can benefit many children in our community. LENA stands for Learning ENvironment Analysis. The LENA System measures the early language environment of children ages birth to 32 months. Using a “talk pedometer” that children wear in a comfortable, child-safe vest, LENA technology tracks conversations with children and the amount of words they are exposed to. Conversations and words are not recorded, just the data. With a week’s worth of data from the device, parents and caregivers will receive weekly reports in the form of easily decipherable graphs and tables. In addition to seeing the data, caregivers partake in parent education classes led by trained LENA staff that will help improve interactions with the child. The Marathon County Public Library is the first LENA Start site in the state of Wisconsin, which is something we are very proud of! 

LENA Start will run for 13 weeks at the library's Wausau Headquarters on Monday mornings and Thursday evenings, with registration required. Start dates are Monday, February 26 at 10:30 a.m. or Thursday, March 1 at 6 p.m. Participating families need only attend the Monday or the Thursday session each week - not both. Free childcare will be provided for all LENA Start participants, as well as supplies and special incentives. To register, call Children's Hospital of Wisconsin at 715-845-6747. Can’t make it to a session this time around? No problem, LENA will run throughout the year with other session dates to be announced soon.

Bringing LENA to Wisconsin was made possible through a partnership between the Marathon County Public Library, the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS,) Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin. Support for this project was provided through the Caroline S. Mark Legacy Fund of the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin, B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation, Dudley Foundation, CoVantage Cares Foundation, Marathon County Public Library Foundation, Northcentral Technical College, Marathon County and generous anonymous donors. 

To learn more about this program and how it works, visit the LENA Research Foundation website or attend a Learn about LENA session at the library's Wausau Headquarters on Monday, February 19 from 10:30-11:30 a.m. or on Thursday, February 22 from 6-7 p.m. You can also view the success story of a participating LENA family in Alabama and get an idea of what the program is all about!

Children Community Early Literacy Health Resources LENA