A rapidly growing number of children, from preschool to grade school have improved their reading and listening comprehension, word recognition and vocabulary by using closed captioning during their TV viewing. — Tim McMahon

Closed captioning enables viewers to read the words spoken on a TV show as they are displayed on the screen. Closed captioning is available not only on TV, but on computer screens also. It is frequently used as a choice for YouTube videos.

This is a multisensory approach to reading comprehension that has been found beneficial to children struggling to read as much as to adults struggling to hear. It is a method that may work with slow or reluctant readers because they can hear the words, see the words as captions, and experience the meaning of the words by watching the action on the screen.

Because of their living in a three-generation household, one mother felt that her kindergarten child had developed excellent reading habits as a result of their use of captioned television.

Even toddlers can be introduced to the concept of print by seeing videos and TV that is closed captioned. Foundational reading skills, such as phonics, word recognition and fluency are enhanced for beginning readers when closed captioning is turned on for TV and videos. Growing readers using closed captioning is entertaining and children grasp the meaning of words used intuitively.

Some captions might even be in Spanish, which would be helpful to those learning English as a second language as well as those seeking to learn useful Spanish.

Closed captioning was first used on PBS for their children’s show “3-2-1-Contact.” Now it is available for viewing “Sesame Street,” which is the longest running captioned children’s program.

Sometimes the captioning may move too rapidly across the screen or be a distraction to some viewers, but if closed captioning is left on, eventually adults and children will become accustomed to the rhythm of the movement of words. The picture on the TV is helpful to all attempting to read the words and provides valuable clues to the meaning of words and emotions of those speaking or moving in the picture.

Another innovative resource to use for your reluctant readers is audiobooks. www.learningally.org provides human-read audiobooks to build stronger reading habits — reading stamina and fluency, strengthen comprehension, critical thinking and vocabulary. Learning Ally provides a new level of access to knowledge, especially for older readers, and powerfully increases their confidence and self-belief. Audiobooks bridge the gap between reading capacity and academic potential for students to become lifelong learners.

Reading skills to be developed through closed captioning and audiobooks are reading speed and fluency, word recognition and knowledge, decoding, vocabulary, reading comprehension and the rate and expression of oral reading. How can parents and teachers not use this valuable resource to lower resistance and barriers to learning among their children?

Producers of TV programs and videos spend a lot of money to make closed captioning available. Why not take advantage of these valuable tools for continuing your children’s learning this summer?

Southern Arizona resident Bette Mroz is a former teacher, reading specialist and principal. As a mother and grandmother, she continues to help her family learn. She can be contacted at bettemroz@gmail.com