Turn On The Subtitles When Kids Watch TV 

Turn On The Subtitles When Kids Watch TV 

We’re only a month away from Christmas holidays, which means you’re likely stocking up your armoury of volcano projects, beading kits, sand art, and other activities meant to keep your kids’ brains from turning to noggin-mush over the break.

Photo: Flickr/RichardBH

Though you will run out of ideas eventually, at which point you’ll likely plop the kids in front of the TV while you Google “things to do during school holidays”.

I’m becoming more and more on board with the Do Nothing Summer movement, but still, it’d be great if we could slip some learning into television-watching the same way we sneak spinach into mashed potatoes.

A Reddit user once suggested turning on the subtitles when kids watch TV. The parent’s son had become “excellent with his verbal and spelling skills”, and while that may not be directly correlated with seeing words on his screen, the idea has legs. People have long used TV and movie subtitles to help them learn new languages, and since many kid shows repeat the same words over and over, children can become familiar with them even as they zone out to Danger Mouse or Inspector Gadget.

Jim Trelease, author of the 1980s bestseller The Read-Aloud Handbook, gave parents this same advice years ago. For young children, he says parents can leave the sound on so they can see the words they hear. But for older kids, he recommends turning the sound off so they’re forced to read. (At this point, I’m guessing they may decide to go outside and play?) According to Trelease and others, one of the reasons Finland’s children have the highest reading scores is because the country imports a lot of English language TV programs, and they’re all subtitled.

Also, though: Read to your kids and encourage them to read books.