Turn on the Subtitles Campaign

Finalist category: Education Award


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Education Award, Finalist, 2020

Here’s the problem: literacy matters. It really matters. Those with low literacy levels are three times more likely to be incarcerated, three times more likely to hospitalised and three times more likely to meet an early death. Literacy is literally life and death.  

But it’s not a problem here in the UK is it? Err, yes it is. The UK Government reports that in 2017, 28% of all UK children were not meeting the levels required to be a proficient reader, and that number rose to 45% in lower income households. This is a serious problem with far reaching consequences. There have been lots of literacy programmes that have run over the years. From distributing books to running reading clinics. Some are more effective than others, but to take any of them to a nationwide scale usually costs many millions… but not always. 

The Turn on the Subtitles Campaign starts with a “did you know?” And usually ends with “but that’s so simple!” 

So, here goes: did you know that turning on the subtitles for kids TV can double their literacy rate? This beautifully simple fact has been born out by dozens of studies from leading universities across the world. The aim of the TOTS campaign is to have subtitles (captions) switched on by default on all children’s content (specifically in the 6 to 10 age range) across broadcasting platforms such as Netflix, YouTube Kids, BBC, Sky, ITV and others. And it’s working. Really working. It’s now written into legislation in India, it’s been embraced by YouTube Kids and pilots are soon to be launched with the BBC. TOTS is now the world’s largest literacy programme impacting over 300 million children in 2020 alone. 

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. Check out the video below to see more:

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