Enrollment begins for infant and toddler language development class

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- A free program in Marathon County is showing parents just talking with their babies can set them up for long term success.

The program is called LENA Start. It stands for Language-ENvironment-Analysis.

It focuses on teaching parents how to talk more, and with higher quality with their young children. Experts say interactive talk is one of the most important factors in children's early brain development.

From birth to 3 years, more than 80% of brain development occurs. And language is one of the most important factors in in that development.

Corrie Norbomm is the program director for LENA Start in Marathon County. She says it is a program that benefits every family.

"It is something that any parent can do. It doesn't matter what socioeconomic status you are. It doesn't matter, you know, like what your cultural background is…” she explained.

During the 10-week course, babies and toddlers wear a recording device one day week. It measures the words they hear, and the sounds or words they make. That response is called a ‘turn’. Norbomm described the recorder as like a pedometer for speech. he recordings are turned in the data is logged on spreadsheet. Parents also log their reading minutes.

Parents are offered advice on how to increase ‘turns’. LENA leaders say the easiest way is to do a play-by-play of your actions during the day. They also say it’s extremely important to wait for baby to give a response. All with the goal of giving baby's their best start before kindergarten.

"Vocabulary is very much correlated with kindergarten readiness, which correlates with third grade reading levels, which correlates with high school graduation, which correlates with being able to get a job stay out of prison,” Norbomm said.

LENA Start is free to parents with children under the age of 32 months. A meal is provided and there is free childcare.

Fall classes begin in September at four locations around Wausau and one in Edgar.

Click here to sign up.