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Huntsville to become first school district to adapt LENA system

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Huntsville, Ala. (WHNT) – Low-income children hear 30 million fewer words by the time they start school than children from more affluent families. A new initiative at Huntsville City Schools is aiming to put an end to the achievement gap.

A baby's brain grows to 80 percent of its adult size in the first three years of life. The most important key to building a brain is language -- talking, learning letters and forming words, setting the stage for lifetime learning. But for low-income children, that opportunity is often lost.

Huntsville City Schools is the first in the nation to adopt a new way to bridge this gap by partnering with research foundation LENA.

"We were really intrigued by what was going on in Huntsville, the team there clearly understands the importance of the first few years of life. This is a natural, sort of strategic fit working with parents as the child's first based teacher," said LENA President Dr. Stephen Hannon.

Parents of infants 0-30 months will meet in a peer-group centered environment to learn how to build their babies brains and improve school readiness. The program uses talk pedometer technology to measure home language.

"For feedback on their home environment as well as techniques to improve their quality and quantity of the feedback they have with their child," said Dr. Hannon

The program will kick off in Huntsville in May with two parent centers. They plan to expand in the fall.

There is no cost for interested parents.