Closed-caption, subtitled television shows, and movies can assist in supporting literacy skills for early readers, struggling readers, English Language Learners (ELLs), students with learning disabilities, deaf and hard of hearing children and adults. Other formats for closed-caption might include DVDs, music videos, video games, and online streaming or content. Research reveals using closed-caption programming in the home and classroom can reinforce students’ learning by offering additional print exposure. In addition, these supports can help to increase phonics, vocabulary, word recognition and comprehension, and fluency.2000px-Closed_captioning_symbol.svg

Studies also show that the average child watches television 4 to 7 hours a day. So, why not turn on the television (limited hours per day) with closed- captioning. With one click of a button, the television becomes a free reading resource. Closed-captions can serve as “the hidden reading tutor” available to television viewers says Jim Trelease, the author of the New York Times bestseller The Read-Aloud Handbook. Imagine the extra hours of print exposure children would receive if we turned on captions every time they watched television or a video at school or at home!

The use of closed-captioning at home engages children in a non-traditional and a fun and entertaining method to offer supplementary reading practice. Select high-interest and previewed programs to ensure that content is age-appropriate. Parents can even record television programs for later use. Utilizing closed-caption can provide parents with a non-intimidating way for practicing reading skills regardless of a child’s reading level, age, or grade.

In the classroom, the use of closed-caption or subtitled media provides a teaching tool to differentiate classroom instruction. Closed-caption can expose struggling readers who often avoid text with meaningful and motivating reading material. Combining closed-caption television or video in the classroom introduces students to audio, visual, and kinesthetic learning.

So, whether at home or at school, turn on the television with sound, hit the closed-caption button, and observe as your child or student excels with positive reading literacy experiences!

Book Recommendations:

  • Reading Sounds: Closed-Captioned Media and Popular Culture by Sean Zdenek
  • The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition, 7th Ed., by Jim Trelease

References and Resources:

Reutzel, D. Ray and Cooter, Robert B. (2009). The essentials of teaching children to read: The teacher makes the difference. 2nd ed. Boston: Pearson.

Captions for Literacy                                                                                             

Captioning to Support Literacy                                     

Read Captions Across America               

Using Captions to Support Literacy                                                           


Thanks for stopping by and I invite you to join me week after next as I continue to explore literacy topics and issues affecting children.

Vanessa Fortenberry,

Retired Teacher-Librarian                                                                                                                                   M.Ed., Media                                                                                                                                                   Ed.S., Media                                                                                                                                                     Reading Endorsement