The earliest years make the biggest impact. Home-Start’s LENA programme (formerly known as Home-Talk) makes sure those years count so that no child’s future is limited.

Research has shown that the number of words children hear in their first days, months and years have a huge impact on their development in later life.

There is an estimated gap of over 30 million words heard by children from more disadvantaged backgrounds by the age of four¹, and children from higher-income families typically have twice the vocabulary size of children from lower-income families.

Which is why Home-Start is working with the American organisation, the LENA Foundation, to bring LENA technology to the UK.

What is LENA?

LENA is a coaching programme for parents of children from birth to three years of age. Trained volunteers support families in their own homes to increase their communication and interaction with their child to ensure they get the best start in life.

A structured programme over 12 weekly visits is supported by the use of ground-breaking technology developed by the LENA Foundation, which gives families personalised data on how many words a child is hearing and how many conversations they are engaged in. This information allows parents to work with their volunteer to be aware of how they are engaging with their children, and look for ways of increasing the number of words their child hears.

Learn more about the LENA Research Foundation and its president, Dr Stephen Hannon.

Research into LENA has shown that children are hearing more words and families are making positive changes in their home environment, making those early years count.

You can find some suggestions for encouraging early communication based on household activities in the Support For Families section of our website. 

Home-Start have completed two externally evaluated projects using LENA.

Download the first report

Download the second report

Please note that Home-Start’s Home-Talk programme referred to in this report has been renamed “LENA”. It is not in any way associated with any services provided by NHS Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, in particular, their “Home Talk” service, which is distinct and unrelated to the Home-Talk programme previously offered by  Home-Start UK.

For more information please contact Home-Start UK Head of Projects, Emma Kirk, on 07717 836688 or [email protected]

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