Turning on subtitles improves children’s literacy, New Zealand study finds

In light of this week’s report on the state of children’s literacy in New Zealand, it’s time to learn the many benefits of using subtitles, including improving literacy .

Title Now I don’t know my ABC by Dr. Nina Hood, the report states that two out of five Kiwi children barely meet or fail to fully meet literacy standards by age 15.

New Zealand media accessibility organization Able creates captions and captions for New Zealand television and media. Primarily, these provide access to over 880,000 New Zealanders d/Deaf and hard of hearing; but local and international research shows that enabling captions significantly benefits children’s literacy.

Able’s chief executive, Wendy Youens, says what’s good for accessibility is good for everyone.

“Statistics show that turning on subtitles in the same language can double a child’s chances of becoming good at reading,” Youens says.

A range of local and international studies show that using same-language subtitles when watching popular movies and TV shows improves reading performance and engagement.*

A respondent in a study by Parkhill, Faye, Davey and Ronnie said, “I used to read a page in two minutes and now I read ten”, while a teacher said, “J noticed a huge increase in their vocabulary. I have five children who are at 5 year lows and I have noticed that this increase has been amazing for these children. They use really interesting words.

One of the main findings of eye-tracking research on captioning is that viewers who have a letter-to-sound match simply cannot ignore captions. Reading responses trigger automatically, and the more you read, the better your reading skills.*

Able NZ Managing Director Wendy Youens says the benefits of subtitles are universal.

“An incredible 85% of social media content is viewed without sound, and 38% of viewers currently use subtitles when watching TV. As we move in an increasingly mobile and media-filled world, subtitles are here to everything from U.S.”

“Activating subtitles is as simple as flipping a switch and can have huge benefits for accessibility and literacy. Subtitles are certainly not a substitute for reading with your child; but it is an incredibly simple way to incidentally increase literacy scores.

Full instructions for enabling captions are here: https://able.co.nz/captions/how-to-access/

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