Since 2016, we have led an effort to support early childhood brain development in Marathon County.

Our Mission

Our mission is to accelerate language development in children birth to three, in order to improve their cognitive, social, and emotional health and to close opportunity gaps.

Our objectives

  • Improve the quantity of talk and quality of parent-child interactions

  • Advance language development and early literacy skills in children before the age of three

  • Promote parent engagement in the community and in Marathon County early education programs

  • Help employers support employees in their role as parents to attract and retain a productive workforce

Our philosophy

  • Parents have the power! We believe parents are their children’s first and best teacher.

  • Using an evidence-based approach will help to close opportunity and achievement gaps. LENA Start is a data-focused and measurable program that can provide us with new insights.

  • Social connections are an important resource for parents. Using a group model reaches more families, and parents have the opportunity to learn from each other and support one another.

Our Background

LENA Start Marathon County is the only LENA Start site in Wisconsin and one of more than 25 communities implementing the program across the United States and Canada.

LENA Start augments local early childhood initiatives, programming, and services by offering a targeted method that focuses on language development. It is anticipated that language gains seen in the course of a family’s 10-week participation will translate into long-term positive outcomes for kids and the community.

We started with two parent groups in Spring 2018, and four groups of parents learned together in different sites across the community in Fall 2018. Spring 2019 groups are currently underway. Thus far we have touched 60 families, and our goal in 2019 is to reach 100 new families.


My son is only three months old, but as we started following the talking tips, he started talking more and making a lot more noise. When we took him to the pediatrician, he said, ‘Wow, he’s really making a lot of noises!’ And I’m like, ‘We followed the talking tips!’
— Mom who recently graduated from the program

What We've Achieved

  • 60 families have participated in LENA Start Marathon County

  • 82% of families have graduated from the program

  • 80% of families showed gains indicating positive influences on parent perceptions and interactive behaviors

  • Families whose first recording fell below the 50th percentile had the greatest gains in adult words and conversational turns.

  • On average, children in the lower-talk groups heard 5,210 more words per day than when the program began

  • Children are gaining developmental skills twice as fast as comparison groups

  • Families report reading more with children

  • Prior to LENA Start, many parents did not realize the importance of early talk