Home > Research into Using Video Subtitles to Improve Reading

Research into Using Video Subtitles and Closed Captions to Improve Reading and Literacy Skills

Despite a decade of extensive research linking the use of video subtitles to improved children's reading skills, the majority of teachers and schools remain unaware of the potential, and what is a significant opportunity to overcome poor reading skills in the classroom

There has been so much successful research into the many benefits and uses of subtitles and captions on video and Television that the American government has recognized the need for subtitles and captioning, and important laws have been passed which mandate its availability.

That research has demonstrated that the benefits of subtitles and captions include:

  • Subtitles and captions help children with word identification, meaning, acquisition, and retention.
  • Reading subtitles is motivating to reading.
  • Subtitles and captions can help children establish a systematic link between the written word and the spoken word.
  • Pre-readers, by becoming familiar with subtitles and captions, will have familiar signposts when they begin reading print-based material.
  • Subtitles and captions have been related to higher comprehension skills when compared to viewers watching the same media without them.
  • Children who have a positive experience in reading will want to read; reading subtitles and captions provides such an experience.
  • Reading is a skill that requires practice, and practice in reading subtitles and captions is practice with authentic text.
  • Subtitles and captions provide missing information for individuals who have difficulty processing speech and auditory components of the visual media (whether this difficulty is due to a hearing loss or a cognitive delay).
  • Students often need assistance in learning content-relevant vocabulary (in biology, history, literature, and other subjects), and with subtitles and captions they see both the terminology (printed word) and the visual image.
  • Subtitles and closed captioning is essential for deaf and hard of hearing children.
  • Subtitles and captions can be very beneficial to those learning English as a Second Language.
  • Subtitles and captions can help those with reading and literacy problems, and can help those who are learning to read.


For Three primary individuals - Brij Kothari, Greg McCall (US) & the late Alice Killackey (US and NZ) - who have all individually completed successful research in the last decade into the link between the use of subtitles and the ability to significantly improve childrens and students reading & literacy skills.

In each case either Karaoke video or childrens Hollywood movies was used because subtitled educational video was not available at that time to use in their research.

However that subtitled curriculum-based educational video is now available from Zane Education and their subtitled online video library enables children and students of all ages and ability to study K-12 curriculum topics & improve their reading and literacy skills .....at the same time.

This is a significant step forward in the world of online education.

Research Documents

The first Research formally published by the Department of Education in the United States in January 2013 into the link between the use of substitles on video and the ability to improve childrens Reading and Literacy skills.


Profiting from empowerment

International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology (IJEDICT). Vol. 1; Issue. 4, pp. 18-29.


Same-Language-Subtitling (SLS): Subtitled Music Video by Wayne Greg McCall


E-Karaoke Learning for Gender Empowerment in Rural India

Information and Communication Technologies and Development, 2006. ICTD apos;06.


Karaoke for social and cultural change 

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society. Vol. 4; Issue.3,  pp 121-130. 


Research Documentation (PlanetRead) Dr. Brij Kothari


Can India's "literate" read? - Research Article Brij Kothari - 2011 -


Overview Article (2008)


Impact Study - Same Language Subtitling on TV:

Impact on Basic Reading Development among Children and Adults(2007, Draft)


Same Language Subtitling: Research Summary (2007) - Some Key Findings


Research Article (2004) - SLS on Television in India


Research Article (2002) - SLS: a butterfly for literacy?


U.S. Research Studies I & II of the AVAILLL Program


Movie-based programme a boost for struggling readers' literacy


The AVAILLL programme: Using popular film subtitles to enhance literacy outcomes for youth offenders (New Zealand)


The Availll Queeensland Study (Australia)


Raising Adolescent Reading Achievement - The Use of Subtitled Popular Movies & High Interest Literacy Activities


Implementing the AVAILLL Literacy Programme at Wesley College, Auckland New Zealand in 2012


Closed Captioned TV: A Resource for ESL Literacy Education.


Effects of Watching Captioned Movies on Vocabulary Development of EFL Learners

The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology


On-Screen Print: the role of captions as a supplemental literacy tool


Adult literacy: captioned videotapes and word recognition


The Effect and the Influence of the Use of Video and Captions on Second Language Learning


Television Literacy: Comprehension of Program Content Using Closed Captions for the Deaf



Watch and learn - How music videos are triggering a literacy boom


Hollywood helps kids to read


ILove Subtitles Blog


Read Captions Across America!


Educators Flocking to Finland, Land of Literate Children

A 1991 worldwide study of 9-year-olds found that Finnish students read the best.  One reason is that Finland produces few television programs of its own.  Children learn from cartoon subtitles, flashing so quickly that word recognition, not sounding out, is the only way to read.


Closed Captioned Television: A New Tool for Reading Instruction


Captioned Video and Vocabulary Learning: An Innovative Practice in Literary Instruction


Television Captioning: A Vehicle for Accessibility and Literacy


Using television for literacy skills




See ex-President Bill clinton recognising the research and work of Dr.Brij Kothari into the use of subtitles on video to improve children's Reading and Literacy skills in India.


Brij Kothari explains in this video how he uses subtitled karaoke video to help the 300 million or so Indians who can't read or write. It's sad that people in India can take advantage of this research, yet there is so little awareness of this opportunity & benefits in classrooms and schools in the U.S.


Captions, English subtitles that also describe sounds, are essential for Deaf and hearing impaired students and improve comprehension for ESL students, struggling readers and children with learning disabilities. They are already available on many DVDs, online videos and TV shows used in class.


Dr. Scott Hollier from Media Access Australia gives a presentation on web and application accessibility to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Reach Every Viewer with Captioning


Other Websites

How TV Captions Help Learning to Read


Captions in the classroom: a hidden literacy tool


More Research on Subtitles and Captions

Adler, R., (1985)

Using Closed-Captioned Television in the Classroom. New Directions in Reading, Research & Practice, Yearbook of the State of Maryland International Reading Association 11-18.

Bean, R. M.,(1989)

Using Closed Captioned Television to Teach Reading to Adults, Reading Research Quarterly 28 (4), 27-37.

Boyd, J. &  Vader, E.A. (1972)

Captioned Television for the Deaf.  American Annals of the Deaf 117, 34-37.

Garza, T., (1991)

Evaluating the Use of Captioned Video Materials in Advanced Foreign Language Learning, Foreign Language Annals 24, 239-258.

Gladdhart, M., Lebbin, C.,& Layton, K.  (1987)

Using Closed Captioned Television as an Instructional Medium for Teaching Normal Hearing children sight Words.  Unpublished manuscript.

Goldman, M. & Goldman, S. (1988)

Reading with Closed Captioned TV, Journal of Psychology 31, 458.

Haugh, J.A., Wilson, R.M., & Koskinen, P.S.  (December 1998)

Captioned Television and Vocabulary Development:  Effects of Home Viewing on Second-Language Learners.  Paper presented at the meeting of the National Research Conference, Austin, TX.

Koolstra, C.M., Beentjes, J.W. (1999)

Children’s Vocabulary Acquisition in a Foreign Language Through Watching Subtitled Television Programs at Home, Educational Technology Research & Development 47 (1), 51-60.

Koskinen, P.S., Bowen, C.T., Gambrell, L.B., Jensema, C.J.& Kane, K.W. (March 1997)

Captioned Television and Literacy Development:  Effects of Home Viewing on Learning Disabled Students.  Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.

Koskinen, P.S., Wilson, R.M., Gambrell, L.B. & Jensema, C.J., (1986)

Using Closed Captioned Television to Enhance Reading Skills of Learning Disabled Students, in Solving Problems in Literacy:  Learners, Teachers & Researchers 61-65, Rochester NY, National Reading Conference.

Koskinen, P.S., Wilson, R.M., Gambrell, L.B. & Jensema, C.J., (1987)

Using the Technology of Closed-Captioned Television to Teach Reading to Handicapped Students, Performance Report, United States Department of Education, Grant No. G-00-84-300067, Falls Church, Vam National Captioning Institute.

Koskinen, P.S., Wilson, R.M., Gambrell, L.B. & Jensema, C.J., (1991)

Captioned Video Technology and Television-Based Reading Instruction in Literacy: Issues & Practice 39-47, Yearbook of the State of Maryland International Reading Association, Bethesda MD

Koskinen, P.S., Wilson, R.M. & Jensema, C.J., (1985)

Closed-Captioned Television:  A New Tool for Reading Instruction, Reading World 24, 1-7.

Linebarger, Deborah L. & Wainwright, D. K., (2006)

Television Can Teach: Elements of Effective Educational Television, Literature Review Part 1, Children’s Media Center, PBS.

Linebarger, Deborah L., (2006)

Teaching Language and Literacy on Television, Literature Review Part 2, Children’s Media Center, PBS.

Linebarger, Deborah L., Piotrowski, J.T. & Vaala, S., (2007)

Supplementing Television:  What Enhances or Detracts From the Power of Television to Teach, Literature Review Part 3, Children’s Media Center, PBS/

Linebarger, Deborah L., (2006)

The Between the Lions American Indian Literacy Initiative Research Component:  A Report Prepared for the United States Department of Education, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

Linebarger, Deborah L., (2006)

Attention to Onscreen Print:  an Exploratory Eye-Tracking Study.  Manuscript in preparation.

Linebarger, Deborah L.& Greenwood, C.R., (2006)

Using Captioned Television and Coviewing Strategies to Improve Literacy. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Linebarger, Deborah L., (2006)

Using Captioned Television & Coviewing Strategies to Improve Literacy, Manuscript submitted for publication.

Linebarger, Deborah L.& Greenwood, C.R., (2006)

Using Captioned Television and Coviewing Strategies to Improve Literacy.  Manuscript submitted for publication.

Linebarger, Deborah L., (2001)

Learning to Read from Television: the Effects of Using Captions & Narration, Journal of Educational Psychology 93(2), 288-298.

Markham, P.I. (1989)

The Effects of Captioned Television Videotapes on the Listening Comprehension of Beginning, Intermediate & Advanced ESL Students, Education Technology 29, 38-41.

McCall, Greg (2011)

Neuman, S. (1995)

Literacy in The Television Age: The Myth of the TV Effect (2nd Ed.) Ablex Publishing Corporation, Norwood, NJ.

Neuman, S. & Koskinen, P., (1992)

Captioned Television as Comprehensible Input:  Effects of Incidental Word Learning from Context for Language Minority Students, Reading Research Quarterly 27, 95-106.

Parks, C., (1994)

Closed Captioned TV:  A Resource for ESL Literacy Education, ERIC Digest, Washington, DC:  National Clearinghouse for ESL Literacy Education, (EDRS No. EDO-LE-94-02).

Price, K, (1984)

Closed-Captioned TV:  An Untapped Resource, MATSOL Newsletter, 12, 4-5.

Rickelman, Robert J., Henk, William A. & Layton, Kent, (April 1996)

Closed-Captioned Television:  A Viable Technology for the Reading Teacher, Reading Teacher 598-99.

Spath, S. B., (1990)

A Study of Closed-Captioned Television & Word Recognition for Third & Fourth Grade Below Average Readers, Dissertation Abstracts International 50, 19-29.

Trelease, Jim,  (2006)

“What About That Mechanical Reading Tutor You Mentioned Earlier,” The Read-Aloud Handbook 169-171, 6th ed, Penguin Books.

Vanderplank, R.,  (1991)

A Very Quiet Revolution: Teletext Subtitles & Language Learning, TESOL Video News 2 (2) 9-10.

Wright, J.C., Huston, A.C., Murphy, K.C., St. Peters, M., Pinon, M., Scantlin, R. & Kotler, J.,  (2001)

The Relations of Early Television Viewing to School Readiness & Vocabulary of Children From Low-Income Families: The Early Window Project. Child Development 72, 1347-1366.

Also, Learn and Understand More About .... 

Video Subtitles - The Missing Piece in Education!

The Benefits of Using Video in The Classroom as a Teaching Resource

The Benefits of Visual Learning in The Classoom

Using Video Subtitles to Improve Reading and Literacy Skills

How Video Subtitles can Help Teaching Students Classified as ESL Learners

What The Law Requires in Respect of Video Subtitles

The First Research Published by the Department of Education (in Jan 2013) about Using Video Subtitles to Improve Reading and Literacy Skills