TV and Reading

Many years ago, Finland purchased old American TV shows.  One was “McHale’s Navy”. The problem was, they didn’t have the money to change the language from English into Finnish on the show.  Instead,  they put in subtitles.  The printed word in Finnish was on the TV.

And guess what happened?  Children learned to read, in a natural way.  The people in Finland are strong in reading.  Adults always have a book in hand, which is a terrific role model for children.  Formal instruction in reading doesn’t begin until age six.

Finland is #1 in reading in the world.  America doesn’t even come close.  We’re #26. That’s pretty sad.

Closed captions on TV does exactly the same thing.  Did you know that every TV has a closed caption component?  Do you want to help grow a reader, one who prefers TV?  Turn on closed captioning!


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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62 Responses to TV and Reading

  1. Ritu says:

    Love the subtitles idea!

  2. beetleypete says:

    Great advice, Jennie. Kids watch so much TV and You Tube now, using subtitles would be a good way of adding to the reading experience.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    That’s a good idea!

  4. Opher says:

    What a good idea!

  5. quiall says:

    Technology can be used for good!

  6. We have same in Sweden 🙂 all tv is in subtitles

  7. FYI: You Tube does, too.
    Great idea!

  8. I think I need to translate my books into Finnish and then go there. Fun post, Jennie.

  9. This is a good idea, Jennie. When I was in Finland, I noticed that they have every available book in Finnish so I thought they must read a lot.

  10. petespringerauthor says:

    Who knew that “McHale’s Navy” was so educational?😎 If only closed-captioned TV was around when I was a kid. (I could have used that learning argument when my parents were limiting my television viewing habits, ha-ha.)

    Seriously Jennie, anything that promotes learning is a good thing. Maybe Finland has it figured out.

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, who knew? Seriously, Finland is the gold star model for education, at least at the primary level. Reading instruction does not begin until age six. That’s when kids are developmentally ready and eager. Also, within every hour at school there is movement, kids are doing something active. Then, (as you know) the brain is stimulated and ready to learn and the body has all the wiggles out.

      Why don’t we do this in America? We cut recess and PE, and that’s a path for failure or apathy. Sigh!

      I wanted to watch a lot of television when I was a kid, too. I vividly remember the bouncing ball on the subtitle song words. Was it Mitch Miller? Well, I remember those words to this day. It works! Thank you, Pete.

  11. Darlene says:

    What a wonderful idea. The English movies shown here n Spain have Spanish subtitles. A great way to learn Spanish.

  12. Ha! That’s a terrific point, Jennie. I’ve heard several people say they learned a foreign language (at least partly) from watching subtitles, but I hadn’t thought about children learning from it. Excellent.
    I always have the closed captioning running. I can’t deal with noise, and most TV shows’ volume fluctuate wildly. So, if I have the volume down to a comfortable level, I miss things. The subtitles fill in any gap without me even noticing. Hugs on the wing!

    • Jennie says:

      You hit the nail on the head, Teagan. Subtitles work! This is a great tool for learning to read, too. And of course there’s no noise distraction – the same as if you were reading a book. It’s a win all the way around. Hugs to you!

  13. magarisa says:

    There’s another advantage to adding subtitles to English T.V. shows/movies instead of dubbing them in another language. Kids in non-English-speaking countries who watch them learn English at an earlier age than those in other non-English-speaking countries who watch English T.V. shows/movies dubbed in their native language. That’s one of the reasons why kids in Scandinavian countries end up speaking better English than those in Germany or France, for example.

  14. Luanne says:

    Isn’t Finland the country where people read on Christmas Eve?!

  15. What a fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing… I’ll be sharing too! ❤

  16. I love reading this. As a matter of fact, my TV always has closed captioning on for other reasons. I can’t always hear what people are saying so I need to read it. Most of the news is watched with the sound off. It helps. I’m glad they have subtitles for most shows now.

    • Jennie says:

      I have heard from so many people that they put the closed captioning on and the volume muted. It really is a good idea. Who knew it could be so useful for helping children learn to read?! Thanks, Marlene! 🙂

  17. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, thank you for another excellent post and great advice!

  18. abbiosbiston says:

    I always have the CC on because my family is so noisy. Hahaha! In my country reading instruction also doesn’t start will 6. By then I had already taught myself kind of organically.

  19. willedare says:

    Didn’t Finland also make a huge commitment to music education a few decades ago? Hurrah for a culture that reads!!!!

    • Jennie says:

      I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all. They have it nailed. Yes, hurrah for the culture that reads – and is exposed to the arts. Best to you, Will!

  20. Great story, Jennie! Love this!!!

  21. Interesting! Who knew?

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