Stephen Fry Leading Campaign to Improve Children’s Literacy

Stephen Fry, the wonderful narrator of the Harry Potter audiobooks in the United Kingdom, is leading the way to improve children’s literacy by urging parents to make one small change. What change, you might ask? Simply turn on the subtitles.

Children all around the globe have been affected by the pandemic by spending extended periods away from school, leading to little to no progress in reading. Turn On the Subtitles is a new campaign created by two friends with small children, Ollie Barrett MBE and Henry Warren. Recent studies show that this small change can double a child’s chance of becoming a proficient reader. Campaigners are also pushing for subtitles to be automatically shown by broadcasters for children’s programming. Fry was involved in Harry Potter at Home last year to keep children engaged with literature during the pandemic. He is ready for the magic to continue.

You don’t have to tell [the kids] you’re doing it. They probably won’t even notice and it’ll work its magic all by itself. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant some children have taken a step back in literacy, which is worrying and a tragedy. So do it right now; turn on the subtitles, and let the magic begin.

From the idea that was scribbled on the back of a fast-food napkin, it has now gained global attention from broadcasters and politicians alike, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the National Literacy Trust. Fry is featured in a video talking about the amazing benefits of this campaign.



Schools in the United Kingdom are being contacted this week for the promotion of this initiative. Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, fully supports this campaign.

The international evidence base suggesting that children respond well to having subtitles on when they’re watching television is compelling. We would absolutely support automatic same-language subtitling on children’s TV programmes.

This is a simple, free, and efficient way to help children progress. Do you turn on the subtitles for kids, or even yourself?


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Brittany Bennett

A proud Hufflepuff and nerd beyond measure, Harry Potter has always been the series I call home.