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Using Video Subtitles to Improve Reading and Literacy Skills

Research Confirms the Link Between the Use of Video Subtitles and Improvement in Children's Reading and Literacy Skills

A worldwide study conducted in 1991 of 9-year-olds found that Finnish children were the most proficient readers. However this was far from being an isolated situation because Finland has repetitively been rated in the leading position amongst all OECD countries, for its level of reading and literacy skills.

Researchers and leading academics responsible for investigating the various reasons for this, attribute one main reason being that Finland produces few television programs of its own, and as a result children are exposed to the use of subtitles, otherwise known as closed captions, every day on television, from a very early age. Children learn from cartoon subtitles, flashing so quickly that word recognition, not sounding out, is the only way to read. They grow up watching television shows and movies (many in English) with subtitles.  So they read while they watch TV.

More to Reading than Just Phonics...

It seems to be common sense that reading instruction should emphasize phonics, or how to combine letters into sounds and words. But because pupils' backgrounds and learning styles differ, teaching too must vary.

Certainly, phonics is crucial. A National Academy of Sciences report in 1999 confirmed that most children wouldn’t become good readers if they don't at a very early age, learn alphabet sounds, and how to combine them.

But there's more to it than simply that. Nobody reads a newspaper, letter by letter. Proficient readers recognize words and phrases without sounding them out. And beginners also need to learn this skill.

Literacy in some countries would be hard to explain if phonics were the only way to read. The Chinese and formal Japanese languages have no letters to sound out. Children memorize character meanings, much as Americans learn to recognize words.

The National Academy of Sciences report, noting that phonics has been too much ignored in recent years, also cited the importance of motivation for reading. Excessive phonics drills can be drudgery and destroy a desire to read. The report summarizes research that a phonics emphasis leads to earlier reading, but adds that whole language methods produce more positive attitudes and may better ''enable students to sustain an interest in reading though the upper grades.'

That is why advocates of a balanced approach can now take advantage of video subtitles as a reading improvement resource, as the use of educational video in the classroom as an effective and interesting teaching resource, is now becoming the norm rather than the exception. A recent study indicates that over 94% of teachers are now using video in the classroom on a regular basis. This provides the unique opportunity for children and students of all ages and abilities to study curriculum-based material, while simultaneously improving their reading and literacy skills.

However teachers and schools will only have this unique opportunity if they are using Zane Education’s online visual learning service – an online solution that currently provides the use of the world’s most comprehensive range of online curriculum-based video that is subtitled for this very purpose.

Why Subtitles Work…

Take the opportunity to sit and observe a child watching a subtitled video, and you will quickly start to notice that, while you might initially expect the child to sit back, relax and simply watch the video, their eyes are continually drawn to the subtitles, or closed captions, as they continue to appear and re-appear on the screen.

A 2010 research document entitled The Cognitive Effectiveness of Subtitle Processing’ may help explain this behaviour as it revealed that…

“Novel results were instead obtained on the effectiveness of subtitle processing (in particular on scene recognition capacity) and on the absence of a trade-off between image processing and subtitle processing. Furthermore, we observed that more fixation time was devoted to subtitle reading than to the visual analysis of the film scenes, but fixations on visuals were longer than fixations on subtitles. This suggests that participants, while watching the film, read the subtitles in order to understand the story, but they did not perform an extensive exploration of the overall visual scene, focusing instead their attention only on the most informative or visually salient elements”

Extensive research has been completed over the last 30 years that clearly demonstrates the link between the use of subtitles, or closed captioning, and the improvement in reading and literacy skills, as well as the benefits provided to students studying English as a Second Language, and even the widespread impact in the education of Special Needs students.

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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

How Video Subtitles can Help Teaching Students Classified as ESL Learners

What The Law Requires in Respect of Video Subtitles

Research Linking The Use of Subtitles and The Ability to Improve Reading and Literacy Skills

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