Reading is the process of retrieving and comprehending some form of stored information or ideas. These ideas are usually some sort of representation of language, as symbols to be examined by sight, or by touch (for example Braille). Other types of reading may not be language-based, such as music notation or pictograms. By analogy, in computer science, reading is acquiring of data from some sort of computer storage.
Reading by humans is mostly done from paper, but other media are used, such as carved stone, chalk on blackboard: anything that can hold a mark. More recently these include computer displays, television and other displays in devices such as mobile phones.
A requirement for (convenient) reading is a good contrast between letters and background (depending on colors of letters and background, any pattern or image in the background, and on lighting) and a suitable font size. In the case of a computer screen, not having to scroll horizontally is important.
Human reading appears to be performed as a series of word recognition steps with saccades between them.
The process of recording information to be read later is writing. In the case of computer and microfiche storage there is the separate step of displaying the written text. For humans reading is usually faster and easier than writing.
Reading is typically an individual activity, although on occasion a person will read out loud for the benefit of other listeners. Reading aloud for one's own use, for better comprehension, is a form of intrapersonal communication. Reading to young children is a recommended way to instill language, expression, and to promote comprehension of text.
Literacy is the ability to read and write; illiteracy is usually caused by not having had the opportunity to learn these. Apart from that, sufferers of dyslexia have difficulty reading and/or writing.
About acquiring reading skill, see Reading education.
The human capacity to read is accurately explained and predicted by human eye physiology and psychology. The eye is capable of taking in a certain amount of text using the vision span whilst fixating on the text. The sensory memory is able to hang onto the items in the vision span for a period of around 300 milliseconds. The short term memory, or working memory, can hold less material (around 4 items at a time), but for longer periods (around 30 seconds). If the material is repeated or appropriately and meaningfully associated, it will be passed into the long term memory, which is potentially unlimited in capacity and can remain there from 10 minutes to indefinitely depending on depth of processing and subsequent recall.
Rates of reading include: Reading for memorization (under 100words per minute), reading for learning (100-200wpm), reading for comprehension (200-400wpm), skimming (400-700wpm), and scanning (700wpm plus) Specifically, normal reading involves the rates of "rauding" (or normal reading), skimming, and scanning which should be understood as having very different purposes and consequences. Reading for comprehension is the most important reading process, as it is the essence of most people’s daily reading. Skimming and scanning are sometimes useful for processing larger quantities of text superficially at a much lower level of comprehension (below 50%).
Advice for the appropriate choice of reading rate includes; to read flexibly, to slow down when the concepts are closer together or when the material is unfamiliar, and to speed up when the material is familiar and the material is not concept rich. Speed reading courses and books often encourage the reader to continually speed up, and use comprehension tests that lead the reader to believe their comprehension is constantly improving. However, competence in reading involves the understanding that skimming and scanning are dangerous as default habits. (For an in depth explanation of speed reading, and a clarification of the concept, see the speed reading article.)
Learning to read in a language other than your native one, especially in adulthood, may be a rather different process from learning to read your native language in childhood. For this, see English as an additional language.
Proofreading is a kind of reading for the purpose of detecting typographical errors. Reader's fatigue can sometimes come as a result of reading poorly written work.
Topics in reading