Can Closed Captioning Improve Literacy?

An interesting concept has been studied recently. Can watching video with closed captioning in the same language, improve literacy? The answer is yes. Research has shown that reading closed captions while watching television can actually increase literacy skills. What is closed captioning? Check out some of CMI Post Production's closed captioning work here.

What Research Shows

Several studies, beginning in 1991, have shown that captioning and subtitles can help strengthen many areas of reading proficiency for students with learning disabilities, for beginning readers, and also adults learning to read.

Improved skills include:

  • Reading speed and fluency
  • Word knowledge
  • Decoding
  • Vocabulary acquisition
  • Word recognition
  • Reading comprehension
  • Oral reading rates

In 2011, a study in England had interesting results. The outcome showed a significant improvement of literacy skills for children in grades K-12 who watched programming with same-language subtitles.

Both Finland and India have been successful for years at using closed captions and same-language subtitles to promote literacy. Finnish children, for example, do not begin formal schooling until they are seven years old, but they consistently earn the top reading scores compared to other countries. The fact that Finnish families are also some of the highest users of closed captioning is thought to be the reason for their high literacy rates.

One of the most recent and successful studies focused on an interesting question: How have India’s Bollywood movie productions impacted literacy for the youth of India? Two researchers set out to determine its impact. They discovered that India's children were learning to read by watching Bollywood films while following along with the subtitles. They were even writing down the song lyrics to memorize them and share with friends. The study showed that exposure to same-language closed-captioning in film songs contributed positively to the viewers' literacy skills.

The Bottom Line

Closed captioning can be a valuable literacy resource for the entire world. It can provide toddlers, preschoolers, struggling students, low literacy adults, and even second language learners with the opportunity to connect spoken dialog with the printed word. Parents, teachers, and school administrators may now have a new tool to help improve reading skills.

It's an exciting concept, especially for CMI. We have been a leader in the closed captioning industry for over 50 years with a special focus on international content. Drop us a line to hear more about our dubbing, captioning and localization services and you may also want to check out our complimentary guide, What's the Difference Between Voice-Over and Dubbing for more information.

FREE Download:  What is the Difference Between Voice-Over and Dubbing?