Boosting Reading Through Bollywood

The educational power of the television – although a technology seemingly backward in our new media environment – is still something highly sought after in developing nations. This piece from National Geographic highlights an example where SLS (same language subtitling) is used to help millions of TV viewers ‘practice’ reading in Hindi. It would be like you watching a Korean drama with the subtitles suddenly switching to Korean during musical segments. Same excerpts:

How does SLS work?  SLS switches on lifelong and inescapable reading practice for millions of television viewers. The science underlying SLS is strong. Eye-tracking research from around the world has established that SLS causes an automatic and inescapable read-along response. Early-readers when exposed to SLS, try to read along, and in the process, find their reading skills improving. As viewers like to sing along to songs and are curious to know the song lyrics, reading skills are practiced subconsciously. Typically, a weak-reader faces a high motivational barrier to keep on reading when confronted with print. In the context of songs – marked by repetition, lyrics that can be anticipated, and subtitles that are sounded in the audio – the entry barrier to reading practice is significantly lowered.

A word on their impact:

Independently collected data has shown that even 30 minutes of weekly SLS exposure over 3-5 years, as part of Bollywood film songs, more than doubles the number of functional readers in primary schools. Of course, SLS would be limited if the only reading it invites is song lyrics. As it turns out, the first thing that youth and adult functional literates tend to pick up in India are newspapers. To be seen reading a newspaper is infused with positive symbolism and status. Interestingly, newspaper reading among regular SLS-viewers shot up from 34% to 70% in five years.  Furthermore, SLS makes a meaningful contribution to female literacy because Bollywood on TV has a higher female viewership.

Is the usage of TV really innovative, or is it merely a gimmicky attempt? 

How do you think a similar concept like the one above might work in helper readers in the Singapore’s context?

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