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Closed Captions for Literacy

In regards to the upcoming Read Across America Day (see:, we thought it’d be a good idea to provide some more research and information on the idea of using closed captions to promote literacy.

Television captions can be a valuable reading resource. It provides toddlers, preschoolers, struggling students, low literacy adults, and English language learners with the opportunity to connect spoken dialogue with the printed word. This is much like having a story read aloud. Studies show that the average child watches television 4 to 7 hours a day! It is completely free to turn on closed captioning. With the click of a button, your television can become a free reading resource.

Finland and India have been successful for years at using closed captions and same language subtitles to promote literacy. See the PlanetRead website for more information ( and to watch a video of former president Bill Clinton endorsing the use of captions for literacy.

In her 2001 study titled, “Learning to read from television: The effects of using captions and narration,” Dr. Deborah Linebarger conducted a study of 76 second-grade students and the benefits of caption use. The study concluded that beginning readers recognize more words when they view television with the captions turned on. The combination of captions and sound helped children identify the critical story elements in the video clips. Television captions, by evoking efforts to read, appeared to help students focus on central story elements and away from distracting information, including sound effects and visual glitz. The conclusion? Turn the captions on!

Over 20 years of meticulous research has validated the link between captions and literacy. For more information, see the list of research articles at  Special thanks to Dr. Deborah Linebarger from the captions for literacy advisory board for all her help and information!

To watch our informative public service announcement on captions for literacy: