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.

What is Home-Talk?

Home-Talk involves trained Home-Start 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.

Evidence of impact

A first stage evaluation into Home-Talk, carried out with experts from the University of Newcastle, demonstrated that the quality and quantity of stimulation and support available to the child increased, the parents’ perception of their child’s development improved
and the amount the parents spoke to their children increased.

Download the report.

Where is Home-Start using LENA HOME?

Home Start UK is currently piloting Home-Talk using trained volunteers in Oldham, Southwark, Leeds and west Dorset.

If you would like to find out more about Home-Start UK and the Home-Talk 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.