The must-know genius trick for improving kids’ reading readiness

Dad and child reading

Sort of like reverse karaoke, it’s so simple and clever that you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself!

Turn on same language subtitles

So what is this must-know genius trick for improving kids’ reading readiness?

Turn on your TV or tablet’s subtitles, and let your children read along in time with the audio!

The Turn On The Subtitles () encourages all parents to do this, aiming to improve children’s literacy by exposing them to the written word as they kick back and watch their favourite shows.

Entrepreneur Oli Barrett is leading the recent charge, working with England’s National Literacy Trust to legislate for subtitles to be the default on all kids programming. Prior to Oli’s push, the brilliant folk at Planet Read have been long-time advocates for the simple but effective practice of same language subtitling (SLS).

The campaign originated in India and seems to finally be gathering global momentum. Planet Read is understandably chuffed.

“So exciting to see so many media outlets in the UK reporting on the #TOTScampaign to #TurnOnTheSubtitles,” Planet Read tweeted recently, as renewed enthusiasm for the practice mounted. “Another shout-out to PlanetRead’s pioneering role. Please support #SameLanguageSubtitling now!”


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Simply irresistible

Research confirms that same language subtitling pays dividends when it comes to literacy. Little brains simply can not help but connect the words on the screen with the audio they’re hearing.

“Several eye-tracking studies from Europe and the US, including a recent one with school children in government schools in rural Rajasthan, have established that subtitles in the ‘same’ language just cannot be ignored,” The Harvard Economics Review reports.

The brain cannot but match known letters with matching sounds. The innately associative power of the brain, combined with prior knowledge of the lyrics, makes reading skill acquisition through SLS, effortless, fun and most importantly, marked by success, not failure.

“Doubles their chance of becoming a proficient reader”

Oli says SLS can improve kids’ reading opportunities pretty monumentally, and everyone should turn them on.

“If you turn on the subtitles for children’s’ TV programmes (particularly between the ages of 6 and 10) it doubles their chance of becoming a proficient reader,” he told the Manchester Evening News

“When I found out about the powerful link between subtitles and literacy, I couldn’t believe more hadn’t been done to join these dots here in the UK … Our job now is to share the idea with broadcasters, including the BBC and also with program makers, politicians and parents. I’m confident that in time, children’s programmes will be subtitled by default. It’s such a simple change which can make a huge difference.”

How tho?

So what are you waiting for?!

If you’re not quite sure how to turn on subtitles on your model of television – a simple Google search should do the trick. Look for ‘subtitles’ or ‘closed captioning’ options, and set them to ON.

Streaming services also have the facility to have subtitles switched on, so check the settings on the service you use. On Netflix, for instance, the subtitle settings are accessible by clicking on the little speech bubble icon at the bottom right of the screen (desktop) or top right of the screen (iPhone).

Off you go!

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