Children living in poverty are 1.3 times as likely as non-poor children to experience reading difficulties and lack key oral experiences that contribute to early literacy development. The purpose of this research was to study the effects of viewing commercially available educational television with closed captions. Seventy second- and third-grade economically disadvantaged children living in urban locations participated in this experimental research design. Children were randomly assigned to view videos with or without closed captions. Captions helped children recognise and read more words, identify the meaning of those words, generate inferences regarding programme content and transfer these skills to a normative code-related skill task. Risk status moderated word recognition performance: those at risk benefited from captions while those who were not at risk recognised more words when captions were absent.