Can Watching Television Improve Your Child’s Reading Ability?

Guest Post by Kristen of Busy Kids = Happy Mom

Can watching television improve my child's reading ability


Hello I Can Teach My Child friends! It’s so good to be back! I’m an elementary Reading Specialist and blogger over at Busy Kids = Happy Mom.


So, the big question today is “Can watching television really improve my child’s reading ability?” Before I even answer it, let me start by saying the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your child have no more than 2 hours of technology time per day. This includes all technology: educational games on your iPad, videos on your phone, Baby Einstein on a DVD or your DVR, Phineas and Ferb on your TV…. you get the picture.


The truth is, we all let our children watch television. As hands on as I’d like to be, sometimes we all need some down time. What if there was a way to make television time more educational?


The Answer: Closed Captioning! (see above)



“While watching captioned television, readers simultaneously absorbed both the spoken word and the printed text that flows across the screen.”

Readers are supported by listening to the same text they are reading.

Research from Koskinen, et al., 1993; Postlehwait & Ross, 1992 in The Fluent Reader by Timothy Rasinksi




Personal Story:

My friend Angie (mom and teacher) was the first to tell me about the benefits of Closed Captioning. Here are her thoughts:

“CC was used for my family when I was growing up because my sister is deaf. I never thought of it as a reading aid because it was a necessity for my family. Through the years and as I began to have my own kids I realized out of habit I always had it on. As my children have become readers we have all seen the benefit of having the CC on while we are watching a movie or TV show. The way Adeline refers to it is “CC is like having someone reading to you while you watch TV – I love it!” The funny thing is my husband wishes he had started watching TV with closed captioning earlier. It’s a way to keep you brain going while vegging out to TV.”


Bottom Line:

If you’re going to watch TV, why not turn on the closed captioning? It’s a WIN – WIN!

Have you also thought about, AUDIO books? Reading and listening at the same time. Another great way to get kids reading! This link contains great age appropriate resources. Another great way to improve reading!


watching TV


Kristen is a Reading Specialist who currently works with children in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade. She is the blogger behind Busy Kids = Happy Mom, a site dedicated to fun, practical, and purposeful activities to do with your kids. Follow Kristen on FacebookPinterest, and Busy Kids = Happy Mom.



  1. Totally just had an Aah-ha! moment where the light went off. I have never thought about adding in closed caption but it makes total sense! Thanks for the recommendation now I’m off to read the owners manual on the TV so I can figure out how to set the closed caption up :)

  2. This is really interesting and something I’ve never thought about. However, it makes sense as I found it much easier to learn new Spanish vocabulary words when I watched Spanish TV with closed captioning on.

    Could Kristen weigh in with any recommendations about ages for which this would be beneficial? I assume this applies primarily to kids who already have some basic (or maybe even advanced?) reading skills?

    1. Katie – I think as soon as you start watching TV with your children, you can turn on the CC. Just giving your child the exposure to words and hearing the sounds, will be beneficial. Children learn how to read by hearing someone else read. CC on TV is something simple we can add!

  3. I never thought about the benefits of closed captioning. Fortunately, my daughter is a good reader and enjoys it. We also are a big fan of audio books in the car.

  4. Holy crow, that is so simply brilliant it’s madness! My husband and I don’t do much TV watching, so my 3-year-old naturally doesn’t watch much either, but of course, there are certain times that a half-hour or so of PBS Kids here or there helps me out tremendously (I am currently 3rd-trimester pregnant, and I get tired a bit more easily than usual). I had never considered the closed captioning while the TV was on, but really, it’s kinda obvious now that I think about it. Thank you so much for this wonderful idea!

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