Each year during the first week of March, the birthday of Dr. Seuss is celebrated in schools across the country in a National Education Association Read Across America event. The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) has launched a brilliant version of the event called Read Captions Across America to promote media literacy via captioning. Springboarding from this theme, I approached the Library Media Specialist at my son’s elementary school about hosting a similar event. She enthusiastically agreed. Permissions were granted from the principals, and the planning began for our event at Welch Elementary in Newnan, Georgia.
Dr. Seuss-themed treats in a classroom
As a parent of two deaf/hard of hearing (d/hh) college- and high-school age students and one elementary-age hearing student, I recognize the benefits of captioning for all students. Prior to moving to Georgia, I worked as an Educational Captionist in a school district that had a large student body that was deaf/hard of hearing. While there, I facilitated an RCAA event for our neighborhood elementary school. I am grateful for all that captioning has done and continues to do for my family in providing a bridge to a world of information and feel that it is a responsibility and privilege to spread the word to families of children with and without hearing loss. For me, being an accessibility advocate is a role, whether paid or voluntary, that I take seriously and choose to fulfill enthusiastically.
At Welch, a school serving around 870 students, some of which are d/hh or blind/low-vision, I saw a wonderful opportunity to introduce the idea of using captioned media as an educational tool in the classroom and at home.
In late February, I wrote a letter to parents extoling the benefits of captioned media from research done by fellow Consumer Advisory Board Member Carl Jensema. Improved reading and listening comprehension, enhanced word recognition and decoding of words, assistance in acquiring new vocabulary, reinforcement of spelling and grammar, and overall enjoyment in reading are a few of the many benefits of utilizing captioned media with students. Directions for how to activate captions on television and DVDs were included. A similar letter was written to school staff to get everyone on board with the advantages of utilizing accessible media for all students in the classroom.
The DCMP sent posters with three different themes advertising the event to be placed around the school. They also provided bookmarks for each student and certificates for classroom participation.
Welch Elementary Library entrance with one of the newly designed DCMP posters
On March 1, we sent a broadcast segment throughout the school describing captions and how to turn television time into reading time. The students then watched an accessible version of The Lorax that had been provided by the DCMP. In the parent letter, each student was challenged to watch captioned media at home and turn in a raffle ticket to be entered into a drawing for prizes. The classes with the most participation received a cupcake party and individual winners received prizes that included a Cat in the Hat plush toy, The Lorax DVD with accessibility features, and popcorn and movie candy for a family movie night.
Jennifer Beard (Library Media Specialist) and I kicking off our event on RCAA Day from the Welch Elementary Bulldog Broadcast Network
The project exceeded my expectations. Prior to the event, very few classrooms had their captions activated or were watching DVDs with subtitles. Post event, most classrooms have the accessibility features activated. The project seems to have raised awareness about the many benefits of utilizing accessible media at home and at school with parents, students, and staff for both d/hh and hearing; sighted or blind/low-vision. It has provided positive experiences with accessible media that can be continued at home. Visual reminders remain throughout the school in posters and certificates proudly displayed by teachers. My favorite raffle ticket comment came from a 3rd grader: “I love captioned reading! I think it is very important to some people! Thanks for doing Read Captions Across America for Welch! Love, Leah.” Time well spent.
Jennifer Beard (Library Media Specialist), Kevin Banks, Harper Powell, Michelle Rich in front of the newly designed RCAA poster
Kosiken, R., R. Wilson, and C.J. Jensema, “Closed-Captioned Television: A New Tool for Reading Instruction.” Reading World May 1985: 7.