U of M program tracks conversations between parents and children

Studies show children who are spoken to more as infants have better vocabularies later in life
(WMC Action News 5)
Updated: Oct. 29, 2018 at 5:37 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A new program is monitoring how many conversations children and parents are having.

The intensive course is using a tracking device to promote early childhood development.

This class is focused on helping children in Memphis under the age of 3 develop healthy minds and healthy emotions for a better life.

To do that, moms are learning the do's and don’ts of being a good parent with a program called LENA Start.

“Enhanced development, that’s really our primary goal and that means development for the little people but also development for the adults in their lives as well,” said Loretta Rudd, program coordinator for Child Development and Family Studies at University of Memphis.

Through lessons and videos, the moms are learning the proper way to interact and support their child.

They said they give the 14-week program a thumbs up.

“It’s great, it’s amazing!” said Jenicka Johnson, a mother of two. “There has been so much growth, and this is just an excellent program and I think that all mothers should get involved.”

What makes the LENA program unique is it combines two disciplines usually kept separate. The lessons in the classroom teach the nurturing parenting method to promote healthy parent interactions.

On top of that, the moms also take home a conversation monitor.

One day a week, each parent turns the monitor on for 16 hours to record the number of words spoken to their baby.

The monitor doesn’t record conversations, and it knows the difference between a human voice and the TV.

“I actually learned that the video games and the TV, that’s not what it’s all about,” Johnson said. “I learned it’s about communication.”

Studies have shown the more words spoken to a baby, the more vocabulary that child has by Kindergarten, setting that kid up for future success.

“Children who have better vocabulary at age 3, tend to be reading on grade level at 3rd grade,” Rudd said.

There are currently three classes running in Memphis, and the goal is to keep expanding to reach and educate as many parents as possible in the future.

“I think it can help all of Memphis as a community,” Johnson said.

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