What Is Reading?

  • Frank G. Jennings


What is reading? Where does it start? How can it be done well? With these questions you can make a fortune, wreck a school system or get elected to the board of education. Most people who try to think about reading at all conjure up these little black wriggles on a page and then mutter something about “meaning.” If this is all it is, very few of us would ever learn anything. For reading is older than printing or writing or even language itself. Reading begins with wonder at the world about us. It starts with the recognition of repeated events like thunder, lightning and rain. It starts with the seasons and the growth of things. It starts with an ache that vanished with food or water. It occurs when time is discovered. Reading begins with the management of signs of things. It begins when the mother, holding the child’s hand says that a day is “beautiful” or “cold” or that the wind is “soft.” Reading is “signs and portents,” the flight of birds, the changing moon, the “changeless” sun and the “fixed” stars that move through the night. Reading is the practical management of the world about us. It was this for the man at the cave’s mouth. It is this for us at the desk, the bench or control panel.


Road Sign Reading Habit Language Heritage Responsible Newspaper Mass Advertising 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Lou La Brant, “Personal Factors in Reading,” in William S. Gray, Editor, Reading in an Age of Mass Communication, New York: Appleton Century Crofts, 1949, p. 56.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Teachers College, Columbia University 1965

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank G. Jennings

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations