From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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.
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.
- "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 
- Least distance of distinct vision
- Primary education
- Transportation Theory (the immersion of individuals within narrative content)
- The reading experience
- Great Books
- Literacy: with some exceptions, only a small percentage of the population in many countries was considered literate before the Industrial Revolution. Reading as a means of consuming fiction was at the height of its popularity in the 19th century.