25 February 2011 ~ Comments

Read Captions Across America

Every year in March, in celebration of the birthday of the beloved Dr. Seuss, the National Education Association (NEA) sponsors Read Across America, an effort to get kids reading.

In our society today, though, time spent with books is overshadowed by hours spent in front of a screen. To take advantage of this fact and improve literacy rates, the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) sponsors Read Captions Across America, held this year on March 2.

The theory is that it doesn’t matter where the human brain soaks up the written word – a paper page, broadcast program, DVD, CD-ROM or internet. Any time letters and words are put in front of a person’s eyes, his brain will have practice in breaking the code that is our written language.

Captions aren’t just for the deaf. Experts say motivation, comprehension and vocabulary all increase when captions are turned on for kids.

Visit any preschool in the country and you’re likely to find word walls, and labels on everything from the bookshelf to the bathroom to the class hamster. Using captions with electronic resources mimics that word-rich environment.

In daily life, kids may be exposed to the writing on a cereal box, a street sign, a church marquis. Using captions when the tv is on at home can expose them to an infinitely wide range of things from outside their immediate surroundings – sports, economics, art, science and history.

Captions also work for adults who are trying to learn a new language. Hearing the spoken word helps us learn like babies do, but seeing that word in writing helps us make higher connections – it links the new language to the root words of our own language, cementing these lessons in our brains. Try watching your favorite film with the subtitles on in another language and see if it isn’t a whole new experience.

To promote Read Captions Across America, DCMP loans free educational materials to teachers, families and organizations – anyone who registers for the program.

The organization keeps a database of captioned educational resources and supports efforts by parents and educators to increase the availability of captions.

Want to promote Read Captions Across America? Get in touch with DCMP for free flyers, posters, bookmarks and other items that can be distributed in your community.

Find out more at readcaptionsacrossamerica.org.

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