SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 16: Jack Black attends the "Kung Fu Panda 4" Australian Premiere on March ...
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Jack Black Is A Big Fan Of Subtitles & Not Just Because It's *A Thing* We All Need Now

The Kung Fu Panda 4 star is joining in the call to turn on subtitles to help promote reading skills in children, many of whom have fallen behind during the pandemic.

“In the heart of every human being on this planet there is one undeniable desire: the desire to be awesome,” says actor, musician, comedian, and sex symbol Jack Black “To surround ourselves with awesomeness. To bestow awesomeness upon our children. ‘But how,’ you say! ‘We can’t just turn the awesomeness like a lightbulb, can we Jack?’” It turns out the key to awesome might be within your reach: Jack Black wants you to turn on the subtitles.

Black has partnered with TurnOnTheSubtitles.org, which encourages the use of subtitles among early-readers in an effort to promote improved literacy, particularly for kids between the ages of 6 to 10 years old. The organization is also lobbying politicians to enact legislation that would make subtitles for children’s television the default. “Default-on” subtitles and, until then, is urging broadcasters and content providers to do this on their own accord for shows geared toward young children.

To be honest, closed captions seem to be a thing that older viewers — and I’m talking, like, 30s and 40s, not senior citizens whose hearing isn’t what it used to be. Even those of us with perfect hearing can’t seem to understand a word of our favorite shows without the subtitles these days. It’s like a “nearing-middle-age” right of passage, like complaining about driving at night. (Why are headlights so bright now, though...?)

But even though anyone can benefit from the use of captions, Black explains why it’s especially beneficial to children.

“Since the pandemic, 70% of our children have fallen behind in their read,” he explains. “Who are you going to call? Who can save us in our hour of need? The subtitles! Just press the button, and you’ll blow their tiny little minds with knowledge! They’ll learn to read without even realizing it.”

Research as far back as the 1980s has indicated that subtitles can, indeed, help both children just learning how to read and early readers as the steady presence of subtitles strengthens the relationships between the written word and sounds. This is also where your child’s desire to watch the same episode of their favorite show over and over again comes in handy: if they’re seeing the same words over and over they’re going to become more familiar with them out of context as well.

“TOTS is one of those ‘no brainer’ ideas that can really help us as parents,” co-founded Henry Warren told Bishop’s Stortford Independent in 2021. “I like to think of it a bit like sneaking vegetables into dinner — the children don't notice, but you know you're doing them the world of good.”

If you’re interested in trying this in your home, the parents section on the TurnOnTheSubtitles website has information on how to access captions settings across a wide variety of streaming services.