2017-11-13 / Local News

Sen. Tim Scott goes to school to learn about LENA

By SCOTT POWELL
Ledger Staff Writer

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott met with a parent class at Alma Elementary Friday to learn how young children are developing their language skills through the power of parent talk.

Cherokee County is the first county in South Carolina to use a Language Environment Analysis (LENA) device. Similar to a step counter, LENA provides parents with weekly reports to track conversational turns and the number of words spoken with their children.

Scott stopped into speak with parents about a pilot LENA START small group program started by the Cherokee County School District this school year. The classes provide parents with tips on how to start conversations with children to help them develop their early language skills.

School readiness results prompted KNOW(2), Cherokee County First Steps and the school district to join 9 partners to start "Talk to Me" in 2016. It is a state and national model program for how communities can close word gaps that young children often have.

By the age of 3, studies done by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University show the human brain has completed about 85 percent of its physical growth.

“I never realized how important it was to talk with my children from an early age,” parent Shae Norris said. “As a parent, you want the best for your child in the world. I have already seen a lot of growth in my child’s language skills just from talking with them since I started taking these classes.”

Research shows young children in poor families hear approximately 30 million fewer words than children in high-income families.

This “word gap” results in decreased vocabulary and language skills, predictors of future school performance in reading and math.

Scott grew up poor in a single-parent household in North Charleston where he watched his mom work 16-hour days as a nursing assistant to support her two sons. He had little motivation in school and nearly failed out of high school in the ninth grade.

His life changed through a chance encounter with local Chick-fil-A owner John Moniz, who shared a life-changing idea - you can think your way out of poverty through hard work and gaining an education.

A champion of early childhood education, Scott said he wanted to learn more about the “Talk to Me” classes started in Cherokee County to help young children with their early language skills.

“This is a phenomenal program,” Scott said. When you look forward 10 years from now when these kids are in the middle of their high school education, these kids in these county will be much further ahead as a result of their parents efforts to help them develop their language skills from an early age.”

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