reading and television

Here is something interesting that has changed the way I view television:
Did you know that children in Finland don't start formal education until they are seven years old? In addition, they spend more time watching television than they do reading. Yet, they achieve the highest reading scores in the world.* Doesn't make much sense does it? Makes me wonder what kinds of shows those kids are watching!
Well, most of them are watching old American sitcoms. In English. In fact about 50% of the shows broadcasted on Finnish television are in English with Finnish subtitles. So the only way a child in Finland can understand what is happening on her favorite TV show is to read the subtitles.* Fascinating indeed!
Now I do try to limit the amount of television my daughter watches. But there are days when I need the break her cartoon shows will give me. So whenever she is watching television, I'll turn on the closed caption. Even though she isn't able to read, seeing the words on TV will help familiarize her with print, sounds and meaning. And when she is older and able to read, the closed caption will give her practice with reading.
Go turn on your closed caption-- you will be giving your child access to reading every time he watches television.
*Information about Finnish reading scores and television came from The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.