Reading (process)  

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"If, as it appears to me, a book is communication, the author is only one link in a unity of different readings." --Georges Bataille from his essay "Sur Nietzsche". --tr. unidentified

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols for the purpose of deriving meaning (reading comprehension) and/or constructing meaning. Written information is received by the retina, processed by the primary visual cortex, and interpreted in Wernicke's area.

Reading is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas.

Readers use a variety of reading strategies to assist with decoding (to translate symbols into sounds or visual representations of language), and comprehension. Readers may use morpheme, semantics, syntax and context clues to identify the meaning of unknown words. Readers integrate the words they have read into their existing framework of knowledge or schema (schemata theory).

Other types of reading may not be text-based, such as music notation or pictograms.

Reading text is now an important way for the general population in many societies to access information and make meaning.


The history of reading dates back to the invention of writing in Mesopotamia during the 4th millennium BC. Although reading print text is now an important way for the general population to access information, this has not always been the case. With some exceptions, only a small percentage of the population in many countries was considered literate before the Industrial Revolution. Some of the pre-modern societies with generally high literacy rates included classical Athens and the Islamic Caliphate. In the latter case, the widespread adoption of paper and the emergence of the Maktab and Madrasah educational institutions played a fundamental role.

Alhazen gave, in his work Book of Optics (1021), the earliest description of the two ways in which we perceive the written word:

"For when a literate person glances at the form abjad written on a piece of paper, he will immediately perceive it to be abjad [a word denoting the Arabic alphabet] because of his recognition of the form. Thus from his perception that the 'a' comes first and the 'd' last, or from his perception of the configuration of the total form, he perceives that it is abjad. Similarly, when he sees the written name of Allah, be He exalted, he perceives by recognition, at the moment of glancing at it, that it is Allah's name. And it is so with all well-known written words which have appeared many times before the eye: a literate person immediately perceives what the word is by recognition, without the need to inspect the letters in it one by one. The case is different when a literate person notices a strange word which he has not come upon beforehand or the like of which he has not already read. For he will perceive such a word only after inspecting its letters one by one and discerning their meanings; then he will perceive the meaning of the word." --The Book of Optics, II, 3 [23]

See also

the reading experience, reading

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Reading (process)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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