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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Young children in Huntsville are becoming stronger readers because of a parenting program. “LENA Start” is focused on increasing early talking in children aged zero to 30 months.

The program was started after researches noticed a 30-million word gap, linked to children who lived in poverty.

Huntsville City Schools first launched the program in 20-15. Those children have now completed Pre-Kindergarten. A report published by the program found the children from the program had considerably higher early literacy scores.

Jovonne Foster joined the program when her youngest daughter Carlie was around a year and a half.

“As a family, we all benefitted from it because my older daughters were wanting to read to Carlie for her homework, you know and making sure she got in her conversational turns. So they all wanted to read to her and talk to her, turn off their devices,” Foster said.

“Taking what parents do on a daily basis and just ramping it up,” said Anthony Davison, the Huntsville City Schools Pre-Kindergarten Coordinator. “It could be tossing a ball, talking about the color of the ball, talking about the shape and size of the ball. You could use simple words with them, but just vary your words, Use a synonym. Instead of using little, you could say minute. Just giving them different words.”

Nearly 500 families have gone through the program. Parents meet once a week for ten weeks, and also have their kids wear a recorder once a week. The recorder counts how many words the child and family say, and monitors how much electronics they are hearing.

Children who complete the program are also guaranteed a spot in a Huntsville City Pre-K class.