Can subtitles and closed captions improve literacy?


In the last 30 years, extensive research has been completed that positively acknowledges the relationship between the use of video subtitles or captions and the improvement in literacy skills.

When we watch subtitles on TV shows, movies and video games, we are exposed to many more hours of written words. This advantage is especially strong for struggling readers, who may stay away from books and other printed media.

What the research says:

Several studies have shown that reading closed captions or subtitles while watching television has an affirmative impact on reading and comprehension skills as well as boosting vocabulary acquisition and improving reading speed and fluency.

If you have the opportunity to observe a child who is watching a captioned video, you will see that their eyes are drawn to the captions, as they pop up again and again on the screen.

Research has demonstrated that captions can support a host of foundational literacy skills.

  • Help with reading and literacy problems
  • Help those learning a second language
  • Help with word identification, meaning and retention.
  • Help establish a systematic link between the written and spoken word.
  • Help strengthen areas of reading proficiency for those with learning disabilities.

For anyone struggling with reading, or learning a second language, captions and subtitles can help.

About the author:

Kelly O’Donovan is the creator of – An education in the art of subtitling.

GOSUB was born from a passion and enthusiasm for subtitling and teaching.

Having started as a linguistic teacher and then moving on to become the Operations Manager of a leading subtitling agency, Kelly used her know-how, affection, and savvy to create efficient and exciting audiovisual courses.

From her years of experience working with producers, dubbing agencies, video-on-demand platforms, entertainment distributors, encoding houses and more, she has learnt a mountain of information about subtitling and closed captioning. She decided to couple this involvement with her other skill set, which is teaching.