BWGRN’s Practice-based Research Collaborative (PBRC) is a consortium of research-program partnerships focused on serving as innovation clusters to develop interventions or strategies and to address questions of immediate importance for bridging the word gap. The PBRC concept emphasizes rapid-cycle, efficient, research and dissemination efforts that produce practical information and tools linking success to their impact on outcomes. Beyond new knowledge that helps families, children, home visitors, early educators, health practitioners, and community agencies, the benefits of practice-based research collaborative projects include the potential for collaboration with other researchers and practitioners within a community of practice around research addressing the word gap, faster adoption of practices and training of providers and dissemination opportunities. A mark of success for the Practice-based Research Collaborative approach are the connections made to policymakers and private funders fostering continued cycles of experimentation and innovation.

Included is a map of the locations of present and past PBRC member projects. Below the map are more detailed descriptions of each. Current projects and aligned locations are indicated with multicolored dots corresponding to individual projects, light green dots indicate past projects. Click on the location marker to visit the website of each initiative. We hope you will visit these sites to learn more about these exciting and innovative projects.


We are excited to introduce the second PBRC cohort projects:

KC Talks with LENA Start

KC Talks is a free 13-week program that will help close the 30 million word gap for caregivers through the use of LENA Research Foundation word pedometers combined with parent education curriculum. Participating families in Kansas City, Missouri utilize “talk-pedometers,” (DLPs) and participate in weekly cohort meetings in which families discuss data collected by the DLPs. Families receive feedback reports during the visit through a process of data co-discovery and goal setting.

Using Social Enterprise to Bridge the Word Gap: A Home Party Model

This social enterprise approach to ending the word gap monetizes parent outreach and education using market-driven principles from business, along with best practices in adult learning, social learning theory, behavioral psychology, and community development.  The project’s focus is on bringing information directly to homes through events called “Heart to Hearts” that inform, entertain, and offer affordable resources.


The Pennsylvania Early Language Home Visiting Study

The Pennsylvania Early Language Home Visiting Study is a small scale RCT study evaluating the impact of a research-based language intervention, PC TALK, along with a progress monitoring assessment, the Early Communication Indicator within an implementation framework model. Children ages 18-30 months and their home visitors are participating in this project documenting progress toward the attainment of language goals within community-based early childhood home visiting programs serving children at risk for, and with, special needs in Pennsylvania.

Community Literacy Toolkit + Caring families, providers, and volunteers = Improved early literacy

We are investigating the effectiveness of using Community Literacy Toolkit programs to both raise awareness of the importance of talking and reading to young children and to mobilize parents, caregivers, teachers, and community members to increase early literacy.  A special interest is demonstrating how community volunteers can help reduce the word gap.


A Talk With Me Baby Training for Refugee Mothers

Refugees in the U.S. experience many health disparities and are in need of innovative interventions. “Talk With Me Baby” (TWMB), a Georgia initiative, trains nurses to coach parents and caregivers to enhance the language environment of young children.  This training provides an additional avenue for the delivery of the TWMB content to refugee parents and caregivers who are English language learners.

Start Young and LENA Grow

Start Young is a collaboration, developed by the Family Conservancy, between child care centers and public and private community organizations in Wyandotte County, Kansas. Start Young aims to increase access to high quality child care, since Wyandotte County only serves approximately 40% of families with young children. As part of this project, Juniper Gardens Children’s Project is partnering with local infant/toddler classrooms to provide a LENA Grow coaching intervention to enrich the classroom language environment.


*We are still recruiting projects into the PBRC so if you have a project that may be a good addition, please contact Dr. Dale Walker (

*Updated 11/29/18

Learn about Past PBRC Projects:


Dale Walker, Kathryn Bigelow, Eugenie Lee Matula, Mark Nagasawa, Caron Calhoun, Nicole Kirkland, Diane Horm, Heather Schrotberger, Jessica Haremza

This project brings together three Educare Schools in partnership to demonstrate the feasibility of implementing an evidence-based language intervention to bridge the word gap. Designed to build the capacity of educators and parents to promote the communication opportunities and development of infants and young children, the Promoting Communication Strategies intervention will be embedded into randomly selected Educare classrooms in Kansas City Kansas and West DuPage Illinois to provide teachers with additional tools to increase the language-learning opportunities within classrooms. The intervention will also be embedded into community-based initiatives in Educare Tulsa, Oklahoma to extend upon local initiatives to bridge the word gap with parents of children in the community.

View a recent poster presentation on this project here, along with a description of the Educare BWG Acceleration Project from the Buffett Foundation Newsletter.

Linking Pediatric Primary Care to the Community through a New York City Initiative to Promote Early Literacy: A Study of City’s First Readers
Alan Mendelsohn, Adriana Weisleder, Anne Seery, Caitlin Canfield, Carolyn Cates, Leora Mogilner, Ingrid Bentil, Kim Sabo Flores, Shari Levine

City’s First Readers, an initiative of the New York City Council led by Literacy Inc. [LINC], is a collaboration of nonprofit organizations seeking to promote early literacy by providing families early childhood resources and services in multiple platforms, including pediatric primary care (Video Interaction Project [VIP], Reach out and Read [ROR]), libraries (New York, Brooklyn, Queens Library systems), home (Parent-Child Home Program), community (LINC, Committee for Hispanic Children and Families), and early childhood education (Jumpstart). This research project examined ways to strengthen linkages between different programs and platforms, as well as benefits of this cross-platform initiative for families.

Watch an overview of Video Interaction Project here!

Check out a poster about the City’s First Readers project presented at the National Research Conference on Early Childhood in July, 2016 here.

Interested in accessing the assessments used in this project? Select the tools by age below.  These assessments were developed by: Alan L. Mendelsohn, MD (1), Carolyn B. Cates, PhD (1), Matthew Johnson, PhD (2), Adriana Weisleder, PhD (1), and Benard P. Dreyer, MD (1)

  1. New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center; 2. Teachers College, Columbia University

StimQ2-Infant Revised

StimQ2-Toddler Revised

StimQ2-Preschool Revised

Too Small To Fail

Too Small to Fail and UCSF Oakland
Dana Hughes, Dayna Long, Jasmine Pettis, Crystal Gariano

This study is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of various approaches encouraging caregiver talking, reading and singing to young children as means to develop early literacy and math skills. The first objective is to document a “campaign” designed to raise public and individual awareness on the importance of parent-child interactions, the second is to assess messaging techniques, and the third to determine the most effective means of influencing caregivers to take action in talking, reading, and singing to young children.

San Mateo County Library Talk Read Sing
Carine Risley and The LENA Foundation

San Mateo County Library Talk Read Sing helps families with children under 30 months close the word gap by bringing groups of 15 together weekly for 8 weeks to engage in Smarter Happier Baby curriculum and use LENA mobile recording technology (like a fitbit for early literacy) to help increase number of words spoken to their child, increase conversational turn-taking with their child, and document amount of electronic noise exposure. Graduating families continue in the program on a monthly basis for an additional 10 months.  The program’s efficient group classes wrap simple talking tips around regular LENA system feedback to show parents how to improve the talk environment at home.

Watch a video about this project here.

 Talk With Me Baby

Talk With Me Baby: Language Nutrition in the NICU Pilot Study
Arianne Weldon, Ashley Darcy-Mahoney, Bryan Williams, Jennifer Stapel-Wax, Lauren Head, Melanie Manns

Talk With Me Baby (TWMB) is a cross-sector coalition aimed at transforming parents into conversational partners by training nurses to educate parents how and why to provide language nutrition to their babies. The proposed study seeks to assess the extent to which TWMB nurse-led maternal “language nutrition” training influences the language enrichment and development of a sample of neonates in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Watch a video about Talk With Me Baby here!

Colorado Talks Back
Jean McSpadden and Christopher Price

This study examines the effectiveness of the BrightbyText system in delivering low-cost, high-reach interventions to support early childhood development. Two groups of families participating in Colorado Talks Back will receive varying levels of intervention with LENA recordings. Coaches will use graphical feedback to support families in creating and accomplishing personal goals to engage with children.

 Colorado Bright Beginnings
 Providence Talks

Developing an effective and efficient long term impact study of Providence Talks
Courtney Hawkins, Caitlin Molina, Kenneth Wong

Providence Talks is the first of its kind to attempt to improve the language development environment of children at citywide scale. The model has been piloted with 200 families and shows promising results. This project will support the design of the initiative’s impact study that will measure the model’s effectiveness in improving long term outcomes for children.

You can watch a video about Providence Talks here and check out their most recent findings in this report!

The Martin Family Language Involvement Program and the Port Salerno Talks Early Language Initiative
Cristina Smith, Pat Harvey, Julia Garcia, Erika Hoff

In its second session, Port Salerno Talks is serving 25 families with a total of 77 children from the Port Salerno, Florida community. Family coaches work with Martin County School District families to deliver strategies designed to increase the quantity and quality of verbal interplays between caregivers and children. LENA Digital Language Processors are used to quantify the home language environment and offer the basis for setting goals to increase conversational turns. Currently, a programmatic partnership is being developed with a local social service agency and our local hospital system to design a comprehensive services network with multiple points of entry to support language and literacy skills with families throughout our community. In the coming school year, programmatic expansion is planned to additional school sites in Martin County.

Check back soon for a video from this project!

 Port Salerno Talks

LAUP – Talk Time. Talk!
Rosa Valdes, Claudia Sarmiento, Mariel Kyger, Dawn Kurtz, Drew Barrett

This Los Angeles Universal Preschool study examined the effects of coaching support on families’ knowledge about and implementation of literacy-building practices. Participating families received a literacy tool developed by LAUP, called “Take Time. Talk!”, and also received coaching from Family Engagement Specialists.  Through the “Take Time. Talk!” tool and the coaching sessions, families learned strategies for engaging their children in meaningful conversations, reading aloud to their children, and helping their children develop vocabulary and literacy skills.

Check out five months of lesson plans used in this project, including: coaching session content, books used, description of coach actions, assignments, and activities for families to complete at home.

Touch, Talk, Read, Play Program Evaluation
Jason Yaun, Marion Hare, Katy Spurlock, Ann Kaiser

The Touch, Talk, Read, Play initiative promotes simple ways for families to interact with their children. By encouraging caregivers to talk and read to their children it directly addresses the word gap through exposure to rich language experiences and healthy social and emotional relationships. The study is evaluating the implementation of the Touch, Talk, Read, Play message in the primary care setting. Patients and families are exposed to the message and data is being collected on communication skills and current family reading practices. Follow up data will be collected to reassess communication skills, family habits, and the effectiveness of the messaging. The study is a collaborative between the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and The Urban Child Institute in Memphis, Tennessee.

Check back soon for a video from this project!

 Touch Talk Read Play
Time 2 Talk 2 Baby

Time2Talk2Baby: An Audio Coaching App
Peggy Sissel, Nicola Connors-Burrow, Laura McLeane, Patti Bokony, Lori Batchelor

Time2Talk2BabyTM is an audio coaching app in development that sends parents of 0 – 3 year-olds daily reminders to talk, read, and sing to their child. Each short (30 – 60 second) audio clip gives suggestions for topics and different techniques for engaging baby. Ninety moms with babies ages 2 – 34 months were recruited with the assistance of a variety of nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and professionals in family medicine and pediatrics. Moms were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups, with the treatment moms each receiving 58 messages over the course of nine weeks. Messages were age appropriate and sent in four age groups: 0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-24 months and 24-36 months. Opening and listening rates were tracked for each mom, and each one also completed an extensive online survey. Using the LENATM Developmental Snapshot, pre and post scores on each child’s language assessment showed a statistically significant difference between treatment and control children. At the 95% confidence interval, treatment children gained a mean increase of 6 points. Twenty of the 41 children in the treatment group advanced a total of 316 weeks developmentally, while only 8 of 39 children in the control group advanced beyond anticipated development levels for that time period. Control group moms are now receiving the messages and being tracked, and the majority of moms in the treatment group are also interested in continuing in the study. New content will begin being sent to them in the fall. Overall, the results of Time2Talk2Baby have exceeded expectations, and the app seems to be a viable medium for bridging the word gap.

Check out this slideshow for more details on the Time2Talk2Baby project.