cognitive process of decoding symbols to derive meaning; a form of language processing
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Reading is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas. Like all language, it is a complex interaction between the text and the reader which is shaped by the reader's prior knowledge, experiences, attitude, and language community which is culturally and socially situated. The reading process requires continuous practices, development, and refinement.

Just as we say “listening and hearing,” “looking and seeing,” so we ought to have two expressions to distinguish active reading from passive. ~ Georges Duhamel
I read my eyes out and can't read half enough…. The more one reads the more one sees we have to read. ~ John Adams
You should read only when your own thoughts dry up, which will of course happen frequently enough even to the best heads; but to banish your own thoughts so as to take up a book is a sin against the holy ghost. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

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  • I read my eyes out and can't read half enough…. The more one reads the more one sees we have to read.
    • John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams (December 28, 1794); Adams papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • God often works more by the life of the illiterate seeking the things that are God's, than by the ability of the learned seeking the things that are their own.
    • Anselm of Canterbury, as reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 123.
  • Others such as these met him in the outer mountain and thought to mock him because he had not learned letters. And Antony said to them, 'What do you say? Which is first, mind or letters? And which is the cause of which— mind of letters or letters of mind.' And when they answered mind is first and the inventor of letters, Antony said, 'Whoever, therefore, has a sound mind has not need of letters.'
  • Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.
  • Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.
  • Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.
  • People who read are a lot more tolerant and open-minded than those who don't.
  • READING, n. The general body of what one reads. In our country it consists, as a rule, of Indiana novels, short stories in "dialect" and humor in slang.
  • The problem in our country isn't with books being banned, but with people no longer reading. Look at the magazines, the newspapers around us – it's all junk, all trash, tidbits of news. The average TV ad has 120 images a minute. Everything just falls off your mind. … You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.
    • As quoted in "Bradbury Still Believes in Heat of ‘Fahrenheit 451’", interview by Misha Berson, in The Seattle Times (12 March 1993); later quoted in Reader's Digest and The Times Book of Quotations. The 1993 Seattle Times is the earliest verified source located. All other citations come later and either provide a direct reference to the Seattle Times' (chiefly: Reader's Digest, credited to "Ray Bradbury, quoted by Misha Berson in Seattle Times", in "Quotable Quotes", The Reader's Digest, Vol. 144, No. 861, January 1994, p. 25), or an indirect reference to the re-quoting in Reader's Digest (such as: The Times Book of Quotations (Philip Howard, ed.), 2000, Times Books and HarperCollins, p. 93.
    • Variant: We're not teaching kids to read and write and think. … There's no reason to burn books if you don't read them.
  • Reading … is an activity subsequent to writing: more resigned, more civil, more intellectual.
    • Jorge Luis Borges Universal History of Infamy [Historia universal de la infamia] (1935), Preface.
  • Reading is the way out of ignorance, and the road to achievement.
  • Libros lege. Quae legeris memento. Liberos erudi.
  • Reading is a way to live more lives, to experience more worlds, to meet people we care about and want to know more about, to understand others and develop a compassion for what they confront and endure. It is a way to learn how to knit or build a house or solve an equation, a way to be moved to laughter and wonder and to learn how to live.
  • By reading a man does as it were antedate his life, and makes himself contemporary with the ages past. And this way of running up beyond one's nativity is much better than Plato's pre-existence, because here a man knows something of the state, and is the wiser for it, which he is not in the other.
    • Jeremy Collier, Miscellanies upon Moral Subjects (London: Sam Keeble and Jo. Hindmarsh, 1695), "Of the Entertainment of Books", pp. 92–93.
  • A man may as well expect to grow stronger by always eating, as wiser by always reading. Too much over-charges nature, and turns more into disease than nourishment. 'Tis thought and digestion which makes books serviceable, and gives health and vigour to the mind.
    • Jeremy Collier, Miscellanies upon Moral Subjects (London: Sam Keeble and Jo. Hindmarsh, 1695), "Of the Entertainment of Books", p. 94.
  • The thing I like about reading is that it puts you in charge. You can stop and start, you can reread something, and you can imagine what the characters and places look alike. When you read, you're participant in the story. When you're watching television, you're not.
    • Micheal Dorris, Sees Behind Trees (1996), author's note.
  • Just as we say “listening and hearing,” “looking and seeing,” so we ought to have two expressions to distinguish active reading from passive.
  • Everything great has already been said. But the person who knows how to stimulate his soul with the magnificence of it is always something new.
  • People used to think that learning to read evidenced human progress; they still celebrate the decline of illiteracy as a great victory; they condemn countries with a large proportion of illiterates; they think that reading is a road to freedom. All this is debatable, for the important thing is not to be able to read, but to understand what one reads, to reflect on and judge what one reads. Outside of that, reading has no meaning (and even destroys certain automatic qualities of memory and observation). But to talk about critical faculties and discernment is to talk about something far above primary education and to consider a very small minority. The vast majority of people, perhaps ninety percent, know how to read, but do not exercise their intelligence beyond this. They attribute authority and eminent value to the printed word, or, conversely, reject it altogether. As these people do not possess enough knowledge to reflect and discern, they believe — or disbelieve — in toto what they read. And as such people, moreover, will select the easiest, not the hardest, reading matter, they are precisely on the level at which the printed word can seize and convince them without opposition. They are perfectly adapted to propaganda.
  • If we encountered a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he read.
  • Our high respect for a well-read man is praise enough of literature.
  • I had an interesting day's reading yesterday, with the sudden sensaton of being in close contact with what I was reading. [...] But as for reading how curious it is: all these books, their lore of the ages, waiting to be embraced but usually slipping out of one's nerveless hands on to the floor. When one reads properly it is as if a third person is present.
    • E. M. Forster, Selected Letters: Letter 419, to William Plomer, 12 December 1957.
What is the use of spending one's time in continuous reading, turning the pages of the lives and sayings of holy men, unless we can extract nourishment from them by chewing and digesting this food so that its strength can pass into our inmost heart? ~ Guigo II
  • The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them. I don't think there is such a thing as a bad book for children.

    Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children's books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading...It's tosh. It's snobbery and it's foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn't hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.

    Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child's love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian "improving" literature. You'll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.

  • At night I sit in my chamber and read the Bible. Far in the distance roars the sea. Then I lie down and think for a long time about the calm and pale man from Nazareth.
  • What is the use of spending one's time in continuous reading, turning the pages of the lives and sayings of holy men, unless we can extract nourishment from them by chewing and digesting this food so that its strength can pass into our inmost heart?
    • Guigo II, Ladder of Monks as translated by Edmund Colledge, OSA and James Walsh, SJ (Cistercian Publications: 1979)
  • Were I to pray for a taste which should stand me in stead under every variety of circumstances, and be a source of happiness and cheerfulness to me during life, and a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss and the world frown upon me, it would be a taste for reading... Give a man this taste, and the means of gratifying it, and you can hardly fail of making him a happy man; unless, indeed, you put into his hands a most perverse selection of books. You place him in contact with the best society in every period of history,—with the wisest, the wittiest, the tenderest, the bravest, and the purest characters who have adorned humanity's bullshit. You make him a goddamn hero denizen of all nations, a contemporary of all ages. The world has been created for him.
  • One of the first things I ever noticed and loved about reading is that words can get through all kinds of barriers; they can get through skin color and culture. It's so easy to read and go through all kinds of struggles with an author. I love the way, when we read, we actually take on the mind of the person that we're reading.
    • 1990 interview in Conversations with Maxine Hong Kingston edited by Paul Skenazy and Tera Martin (1998)
  • Rob a culture of literacy, and rumor replaces record, anecdotes supersede annals. The drive to cooperation remains, but cooperation itself, on a grand scale, becomes impractical. The dream of universal understanding fades. Nations are reborn, and, within them, peoples—reborn or invented. Models of the world proliferate, and science—beyond a rude natural philosophy—becomes impossible. Religions multiply and speciate, fetishizing wildly. Parochialism arises in all its finery, speaking argot, wearing folk dress, dancing its ethnic dance.
  • If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.
  • Accurate reading on a wide range of subjects makes the scholar; careful selection of the better makes the saint.
  • I will read anything rather than work.
    • Jean Kerr, Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1957), Introduction.
  • A note about time:
    Time had become quite flexible inside the Library. (This is true of most places with interesting books. Sit down to read for twenty minutes, and suddenly it’s dark, with no clue as to where the hours have gone.)
    • Ellen Klages, In the House of Seven Librarians (2006), reprinted in Paula Guran (ed.), Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries & Lore (p. 25)
  • There is also a magic in reading. Books have taken me to places I never thought I would visit, introduced me to people I never thought I would meet, and transported me to times past and futures imagined I never though I would experience.
  • Many readers judge of the power of a book by the shock it gives their feelings.
  • Seria cum possim, quod delectantia malim
    Scribere, tu causa es lector.
    • Thou art the cause, O reader, of my dwelling on lighter topics, when I would rather handle serious ones.
    • Martial, Epigrams (c. 80-104 AD), V. 16. 1.
  • A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies... The man who never reads lives only one.
  • His classical reading is great: he can quote
    Horace, Juvenal, Ovid and Martial by rote.
    He has read Metaphysics * * * Spinoza and Kant
    And Theology too: I have heard him descant
    Upon Basil and Jerome. Antiquities, art,
    He is fond of. He knows the old masters by heart,
    And his taste is refined.
  • Who reads
    Incessantly, and to his reading brings not
    A spirit and judgment equal or superior,
    (And what he brings what need he elsewhere seek?)
    Uncertain and unsettled still remains,
    Deep versed in books and shallow in himself,
    Crude or intoxicate, collecting toys
    And trifles for choice matters, worth a sponge,
    As children gathering pebbles on the shore.
  • The Musalman General, who had already made his name a terror by repeated plundering expeditions in Bihar, seized the capital by a daring stroke... Great quantities of plunder were obtained, and the slaughter of the 'shaven headed Brahmans', that is to say the Buddhist monks, was so thoroughly completed, that when the victor sought for someone capable of explaining the contents of the books in the libraries of the monasteries, not a living man could be found who was able to read them.
    • Minhaj-i-Siraj, Tabakat-i-Nasiri, cited by Vincent Smith and quoted from B. R. Ambedkar, "The decline and fall of Buddhism," Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Vol. III, Government of Maharashtra. 1987, p. 232-233, quoting Vincent Smith
  • Sadly, reading and writing are, at least in part, the victims of a television and internet culture that has effectively encumbered the minds of people. This is problematic because, without reading, it becomes difficult to think analytically and imaginatively about the world’s problems and issues, and it hampers the development of appropriate responses and solutions. Lack of reading also often results in the uncritical acceptance of political slogans which, while they appear plausible, are ultimately devoid of merit.
  • Reading in general is one of my methods of recuperation; consequently it is a part of that which enables me to escape from myself, to wander in strange sciences and strange souls of that, about which I am no longer in earnest. Indeed, reading allows me to recover from my earnestness.
  • Studies show that people who read at or above the college level all read at about the same speed when they read for pleasure.
    Within the contentious world of reading theory, there is unanimity on this point. When you factor out the amount of time spent thinking through complex and unfamiliar concepts—a rarity when people read for pleasure—reading is an appallingly mechanical process. You look at a word or several words. This is called a “fixation,” and it takes about .25 seconds on average. You move your eye to the next word or group of words. This is called a “saccade,” and it takes up to about .1 seconds on average. After this is repeated once or twice, you pause to comprehend the phrase you just looked at. That takes roughly 0.3 to 0.5 seconds on average. Add all these fixations and saccades and comprehension pauses together and you end up with about 95 percent of all college-level readers reading between 200 and 400 words per minute, according to Keith Rayner, a psycholinguist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The majority of these college-level readers reads about 300 words per minute.
    What about the far end of the bell curve? Isn’t it possible there are a handful of super-smart Aloysiuses out there who can read much faster than everybody else? John F. Kennedy was said to read 1,200 words per minute. The speed-reading huckster Evelyn Wood claimed that a professor boasted of consuming more than 2,500 words per minute “with outstanding recall and comprehension.” A 1963 study purported to find one person who read 17,040 words per minute. The last two examples are gleaned from a 1985 study in Reading Research Quarterly, by Ronald Carver, a professor of education research and psychology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Carver thinks all three of these examples are bunk. JFK, he says, probably read 500-600 words a minute—that’s very fast—and perhaps could skim 1,000 words per minute.
  • I write what I would like to read – what I think other women would like to read. If what I write makes a woman in the Canadian mountains cry and she writes and tells me about it, especially if she says ‘I read it to Tom when he came in from work and he cried too,’ I feel I have succeeded.
    • Kathleen Norris, on the publication of her seventy-eighth book, as cited in: James Charlton. The Writer's quotation book. 1985. p. 34 p. 66
  • When we read, we are not looking for new ideas, but to see our own thoughts given the seal of confirmation on the printed page. The words that strike us are those that awake an echo in a zone we have already made our own—the place where we live—and the vibration enables us to find fresh starting points within ourselves.
  • Properly, we should read for power. Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one's hand.
  • O thou covering yourself up! wake to worship during the night, even briefly, half of it, or shorter of it, or add to it, Then read Quran calmly. Wake by night is surely the appropriate and the most effective time for contemplation. Truly by daytime you have prolonged with occupation.
  • Reading is almost exactly the same as cartwheeling: it turns the world upside down and leaves you breathless.
    • Katherine Rundell
Two experiments demonstrated that subvocalization is of value in reading for certain types of meaning. Blocking subvocalization by requiring subjects to count or say “cola-colacola …” aloud impaired their reading comprehension but generally not their listening comprehension. The effect of blocking subvocalization was found to be specific to tests that required integration of concepts within or across sentences, as contrasted with tests that required only memory of individual word concepts. ~ Maria L. Slowiaczek, Charles Clifton Jr.
  • You should read only when your own thoughts dry up, which will of course happen frequently enough even to the best heads; but to banish your own thoughts so as to take up a book is a sin against the holy ghost; it is like deserting untrammeled nature to look at a herbarium or engravings of landscapes.
  • Reading is a mere makeshift for original thinking.
  • Reading is thinking with some one else's head instead of one's own. But to think for oneself is to endeavour to develop a coherent whole, a system, even if it is not a strictly complete one. Nothing is more harmful than, by dint of continual reading, to strengthen the current of other people's thoughts. These thoughts, springing from different minds, belonging to different systems, bearing different colours, never flow together of themselves into a unity of thought, knowledge, insight, or conviction, but rather cram the head with a Babylonian confusion of tongues; consequently the mind becomes overcharged with them and is deprived of all clear insight and disorganised. This condition of things may often be discerned in many men of learning, and it makes them inferior in sound understanding, correct judgment, and practical tact to many illiterate men, who, by the aid of experience, conversation, and a little reading, have acquired a little knowledge from without, and made it always subordinate to and incorporated it with their own thoughts.
  • People who spend their whole life traveling abroad end up having plenty of places where they can find hospitality but no real friendships. The same must needs be the case with people who never set about acquiring an intimate acquaintanceship with any one great writer, but skip from one to another, paying flying visits to them all.
    • Seneca, Letter 2 (Robin Campbell trans.)
  • He hath never fed of the dainties that are bred in a book; he hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink: his intellect is not replenished; he is only an animal, only sensible in the duller parts.
  • Two experiments demonstrated that subvocalization is of value in reading for certain types of meaning. Blocking subvocalization by requiring subjects to count or say “cola-colacola …” aloud impaired their reading comprehension but generally not their listening comprehension. The effect of blocking subvocalization was found to be specific to tests that required integration of concepts within or across sentences, as contrasted with tests that required only memory of individual word concepts. Two hypotheses were offered: first, that subvocalization results in a more durable memory representation needed for integration of concepts; and second, that subvocalization enables a prosodic restructuring that makes information needed for sentence comprehension accessible.
  • With our multifarious duties we may not be able to call upon some aged or invalid sister, to cheer her, but we may lend her a book to read at pleasure, and peradventure to the strengthening of her purpose, the cheering of her life, and the edification of her mind. Likewise after reading a good book, pass it to a sister, saying, “I commend this book to you. It has instructed me and may edify you, and when you have read, return, that I may lend again.”
  • It is the greatest achievement of my life. Yes, I have used that word: a great achievement. My learning to read was an achievement. Nobody knows that but me.
  • “What is it exactly that you do with a book?”
    “You read it.”
    “Oh,” she said. And then, “What does read mean?”
    I nodded. Then I began turning the pages of the book I was holding and said, “Some of these markings here represent sounds. And the sounds make words. You look at the marks and sounds come into your mind and, after you practice long enough, they begin to sound like hearing a person talking. Talking—but silently.”
  • Reading is the subtle and thorough sharing of the ideas and feelings by underhanded means. It is a gross invasion of Privacy.
  • Bob seems to know almost everything; but he doesn’t know when or why people stopped reading. “Most people are too lazy,” he said. “They only want distractions.”
  • I must get inside that library! I must have books again. If I cannot read and learn and have things that are worth thinking about, I would rather immolate myself than go on living.
  • The woman beside me hesitated a moment, and then said softly, “This man is different, Mary. He’s a Reader.”
  • I feel free and strong. If I were not a reader of books I could not feel this way. Whatever may happen to me, thank God that I can read, that I have truly touched the minds of other men.
  • Studious let me sit,
    And hold high converse with the mighty Dead.
  • Nothing is more commonplace than the reading experience, and yet nothing is more unknown. Reading is such a matter of course that at first glance it seems there is nothing to say about it.
    • Tzvetan Todorov in Reading as Construction, as translated from French by Marilyn A. August.
  • This experiment addressed the question of whether reading comprehension and speed could be predicted by eye fixations. From a sample of university students who completed tests of reading comprehension and vocabulary, we selected a group of highly skilled readers and a group of less skilled readers. These two groups then read sentences as their eye movements were monitored, with fixation locations and durations recorded. A discriminant function analysis showed that fixation duration was a successful predictor of reading comprehension, but that the number of fixations, regressive fixations, reading speed, and vocabulary were not reliable predictors. A multiple regression analysis revealed that reading speed was predicted by the number of fixations, the average fixation duration, and the duration of the final fixation upon the sentence, but there was no relationship with reading ability. Highly skilled readers are those who can extract information efficiently, but are not necessarily those who have fast overall reading rates.
  • If one's mind correctly gauges the import of these words, then, in the blink of an eye, one's qualities of wisdom and severance will become so great as to defy measurement and one's spiritual understanding will become unfathomably deep.

    If, however, one disingenuously seizes on passages out of context or, due to personal sentiments, distorts the instructions of the text, then the months and years will be needlessly drawn out while actual realization will have no basis for development. One's circumstance would then be like the pauper who spends his time calculating the wealth of other men. What possible benefit could this have for oneself?

    • Zhiyi, The Essentials of Buddhist Meditation, as translated by Bhikshu Dharmamitra (Klavinka Buddhist Classics: 2009) p. 35

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 656-58.
  • Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body. As by the one, health is preserved, strengthened, and invigorated: by the other, virtue (which is the health of the mind) is kept alive, cherished, and confirmed.
  • Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.
    • Book of Common Prayer, collect for the Second Sunday in Advent.
  • In science, read, by preference, the newest works; in literature, the oldest. The classic literature is always modern.
  • If time is precious, no book that will not improve by repeated readings deserves to be read at all.
  • We have not read an author till we have seen his object, whatever it may be, as he saw it.
  • The mind, relaxing into needful sport,
    Should turn to writers of an abler sort,
    Whose wit well managed, and whose classic style,
    Give truth a lustre, and make wisdom smile.
  • But truths on which depends our main concern,
    That 'tis our shame and misery not to learn,
    Shine by the side of every path we tread
    With such a lustre he that runs may read.
  • The delight of opening a new pursuit, or a new course of reading, imparts the vivacity and novelty of youth even to old age.
  • I like to be beholden to the great metropolitan English speech, the sea which receives tributaries from every region under heaven. I should as soon think of swimming across the Charles river when I wish to go to Boston, as of reading all my books in originals, when I have them rendered for me in my mother tongue.
  • My early and invincible love of reading, * * * I would not exchange for the treasures of India.
  • The sagacious reader who is capable of reading between these lines what does not stand written in them, but is nevertheless implied, will be able to form some conception.
  • Zwar sind sie an das Beste nicht gewöhnt,
    Allein sie haben schrecklich viel gelesen.
    • What they're accustomed to is no great matter,
      But then, alas! they've read an awful deal.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, Vorspiel auf dem Theater, line 13. Bayard Taylor's translation.
  • In a polite age almost every person becomes a reader, and receives more instruction from the Press than the Pulpit.
  • The first time I read an excellent book, it is to me just as if I had gained a new friend. When I read over a book I have perused before, it resembles the meeting with an old one.
  • Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
    • Habakkuk, II. 2. Ut percurrat qui legerit eum. (That he that readeth it may run over it). Rendering in the Vulgate.
  • The foolish read to escape reality; the wise surrender to it.
  • Books have always a secret influence on the understanding; we cannot at pleasure obliterate ideas: he that reads books of science, though without any desire fixed of improvement, will grow more knowing; he that entertains himself with moral or religious treatises, will imperceptibly advance in goodness; the ideas which are often offered to the mind, will at last find a lucky moment when it is disposed to receive them.
  • A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.
  • What is twice read is commonly better remembered than what is transcribed.
  • It may be well to wait a century for a reader, as God has waited six thousand years for an observer.
  • I love to lose myself in other men's minds.
    When I am not walking, I am reading;
    I cannot sit and think. Books think for me.
    • Charles Lamb, Last Essays of Elia, Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading.
  • He that I am reading seems always to have the most force.
  • And better had they ne'er been born,
    Who read to doubt, or read to scorn.
  • Read Homer once, and you can read no more,
    For all books else appear so mean, so poor,
    Verse will seem prose; but still persist to read,
    And Homer will be all the books you need.
    • John Sheffield (Duke of Buckinghamshire), An Essay on Poetry, line 323.
  • Learn to read slow; all other graces
    Will follow in their proper places.

See also

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