Virginia Beach Selected As One of 11 Communities for LENA Start

Innovative technology strengthens kindergarten readiness

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

​The Lena Research Foundation has selected the City of Virginia Beach as one of 11 new communities to join LENA Start, a program that helps parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers (0-30 months) close the talk gap. Research shows that talking with babies is one of the most critical elements in their early brain development. LENA Start uses innovative "talk pedometer" technology with simple strategies offered in a series of efficient, engaging sessions. Parents learn to use feedback from the LENA System™ about their home language environment and receive home parent materials, free books to build a home library and easy-to-use talking tips to increase interactive talk with their children.

The program will be one of the new offerings from GrowSmart, a division of Virginia Beach Economic Development, to ensure healthy development and school readiness for children in Virginia Beach. The program is a cost-share model with United Way of South Hampton Roads, LENA Research and the City of Virginia Beach. The program will be launched with GrowSmart collaborative partners such as Virginia Beach Public Libraries, Parks and Recreation, Early Intervention, Head Start, Military Fleet and Family Services, Square One and other community-based organizations.

LENA Start takes a cost-effective and scalable approach by delivering LENA feedback and strategies to increase talk to groups of parents. A three-month sequence of weekly one-hour sessions builds family engagement and social capital as well as strengthens engagement between families and the community. Staffing needs are reduced, while impact is increased. Effective implementation is ensured by delivering the program through videos and scripted instruction—and by continuous data feedback. The goal is to increase communication between parents and young children to bridge achievement and word gaps, and increase children's school readiness.

"We will launch in October, and in the first year we will establish four parent groups that will reach 60 families," said Barb Lito, GrowSmart coordinator. "In year two, we will increase the number of parent groups to six for a reach of 90 to 100 families. This vital training unlocks parents' power to build children's cognitive potential, and we are very pleased to be selected to share this successful model with our families."

Virginia Beach READS Needs Volunteers
GrowSmart is also seeking community volunteers to assist with the Virginia Beach READS program. Volunteers spend one hour a week reading and mentoring to 1st-grade students in select schools in the city. To volunteer, call Barb Lito at 757-385-6464 or email

Virginia Beach READS is part of the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading, which focuses on three pillars of success proven to directly impact reading proficiency in the early years. By emphasizing the importance of school readiness, summer learning, daily attendance and reading by grade level, Virginia Beach READS is committed to moving the needle on reading. Community partners in the local campaign include Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Virginia Beach Libraries, Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation, Office of Volunteer Resources, United Way, Square One and GrowSmart.

GrowSmart is operated through the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development. GrowSmart exists to promote and improve the healthy development, school readiness and reading proficiency of young children ages 0-8. In addition to providing resources for parents and families, GrowSmart also offers programming to ensure the availability of high quality early education. Visit for more information.

About the LENA Research Foundation
The LENA Research Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity based in Boulder, Colorado. Its mission is to accelerate language development to improve the cognitive, social, and emotional health of children birth to five and close achievement gaps. Used by researchers and clinicians all over the world, the LENA System™ measures a child's language environment and provides vital feedback to parents and professionals in programs dedicated to close the language, learning, and opportunity gap for children. For more information on the foundation, please visit

The mission of the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development is to attract and retain national and international businesses to stimulate capital investment and create jobs. Virginia Beach is the most populous city in Virginia with a population of 450,000, and it is the 37th largest in the United States. The Department of Economic Development received re-accreditation through the International Economic Development Council in 2016 and is one of only 50 economic development organizations in the world to have this recognition. Most recently, Virginia Beach was named America's #1 best big city to live in by For more information, visit

20170905-CO-114ED-LENA Vest.jpg
Child using LENA "talk pedometer" technology

20170905-CO-114ED-LENA Sample Kit.jpg
Sample LENA Start Parent Kit

# # #