From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"There are four kinds of readers. The first is like the hourglass; and their reading being as the sand, it runs in and runs out, and leaves not a vestige behind. A second is like the sponge, which imbibes everything, and returns it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtier. A third is like a jelly bag, allowing all that is pure to pass away, and retaining only the refuse and dregs. And the fourth is like the slaves in the diamond mines of Golconda, who, casting aside all that is worthless, retain only pure gems." --Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"God grant that the reader, emboldened and having become at present as fierce as what he is reading, find, without loss of bearings, his way, his wild and treacherous passage through the desolate swamps of these sombre, poison-soaked pages; for, unless he should bring to his reading a rigorous logic and a sustained mental effort at least as strong as his distrust, the lethal fumes of this book shall dissolve his soul as water does sugar." --Les Chants de Maldoror (1869) by Comte de Lautréamont, translation unidentified
Success in this process is measured as reading comprehension. Reading is a means for language acquisition, communication, and sharing information and ideas. The symbols are typically visual (written or printed) but may be tactile (Braille). Like all languages, it is a complex interaction between text and reader, shaped by prior knowledge, experiences, attitude, and the language community—which is culturally and socially situated. Readers use a variety of reading strategies to decode (to translate symbols into sounds or visual representations of speech) and comprehend. Readers may use context clues to identify the meaning of unknown words. Readers integrate the words they have read into their existing framework of knowledge or schema.
Other types of reading are not speech based writing systems, such as music notation or pictograms. The common link is the interpretation of symbols to extract the meaning from the visual notations or tactile signals (as in the case of Braille).
The history of reading dates back to the invention of writing 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.
Scholars assume that reading aloud (Latin clare legere) was the more common practice in antiquity, and that reading silently (legere tacite or legere sibi) was unusual. In his Confessions, Saint Augustine remarks on Saint Ambrose's unusual habit of reading silently in the 4th century AD.
During the Age of Enlightenment, elite individuals promoted passive reading, rather than creative interpretation. Reading has no concrete laws, but lets readers escape to produce their own products introspectively, promoting deep exploration of texts during interpretation. Some thinkers of that era believed that construction, or the creation of writing and producing a product, was a sign of initiative and active participation in society—and viewed consumption (reading) as simply taking in what constructors made. Also during this era, writing was considered superior to reading in society. They considered readers of that time passive citizens, because they did not produce a product. Michel de Certeau argued that the elites of the Age of Enlightenment were responsible for this general belief. Michel de Certeau believed that reading required venturing into an author's land, but taking away what the reader wanted specifically. This view held that writing was a superior art to reading within the hierarchical constraints of the era.
In 18th-century Europe, the then new practice of reading alone in bed was, for a time, considered dangerous and immoral. As reading became less a communal, oral practice, and more a private, silent one—and as sleeping increasingly moved from communal sleeping areas to individual bedrooms, some raised concern that reading in bed presented various dangers, such as fires caused by bedside candles. Some modern critics, however, speculate that these concerns were based on the fear that readers—especially women—could escape familial and communal obligations and transgress moral boundaries through the private fantasy worlds in books.
- the reading experience, reading
- 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.