Only human beings read. The act of reading involves blending the sounds of letters to form words that symbolize ideas, objects, or entities (abstract or concrete). Interestingly, both religious and secular scientists in various disciplines today think that human exceptionalism—the idea that humans differ from animals in kind, not mere degree—is evidenced in part by our unique ability to think, speak, listen, write, and read.

So, the complex symbolism of language is one of the things that makes human beings different in kind from the animals. According to philosopher and educator Mortimer Adler (1902–2001), animals don’t engage in language, per se, but rather send signals to one another.1 Yet despite the extraordinary complexity of written language, most children master basic reading skills by the tender age of seven years.

From a biblical worldview perspective, it may be reasonably inferred that humans’ capacity to read is part of the intellectual endowment that comes from being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27). Our Creator gave his image to humans only, which seems on par with the idea of human exceptionalism. Moreover, God gave humankind a divinely inspired book, the Bible, to read and study in order to discover truth and salvation. Christians share with Jews the designation of being called “people of the book.” Sometimes the religions of Islam and Zoroastrianism are also included under this title.

Reading is fundamental to living—especially in a modern society—in untold ways (education, employment, citizenship, reflection, etc.). But what happens when a child can’t read or has great difficulty reading? Educator E. D. Hirsch notes:

We all know that reading is the most important academic skill, and that there is a big reading gap between haves and have-nots in our schools. We know that reading is a key not just to a child’s success in school but also, in the information age, to his or her chances in life.2

Dyslexia: A Learning Disorder

Dyslexia is a well-known challenge to learning how to read. Mayo Clinic article defines dyslexia as “a learning disorder that involves…problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding)….dyslexia affects areas of the brain that process language.”3

As a neurological condition, dyslexia is caused by a different wiring of the brain. The disorder is common. Experts estimate that it affects 15–20 percent of school children in America.4 Yet students with dyslexia have normal intelligence and usually normal vision. While there is no cure for dyslexia, the good news is that with tutoring and specialized training (by developing decoding and coping skills), students with the disorder can succeed and even excel in reading.

The International Dyslexia Association notes, “Many people with dyslexia have gone on to accomplish great things. Among the many dyslexia success stories are Thomas Edison, Stephen Spielberg, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Schwab.”5

Screening and early detection of dyslexia are key. Studies indicate the prevalence of dyslexia (often undiagnosed) among prison inmates in America is estimated to be almost 50 percent.6 One can reasonably see how this serious learning disorder likely contributes to incarceration rates.

According to the International Dyslexia Association:

In public school settings where many teachers are not knowledgeable about this condition, students with dyslexia may be considered stupid or lazy. Parents who have children diagnosed with dyslexia should seek out reading instruction that is based upon a systematic and explicit understanding of language structure, including phonics.7

How important is reading? It clearly affects one’s entire life including the quality of that life as well as the rest of society. Christians need to be aware and grateful for God’s endowment of the imago Dei (image of God). Christian philosophers and theologians generally believe that this God-given capacity grounds human rationality and human exceptionalism. Christians, especially those who work in education, should always be mindful of humans’ exceptional nature as they seek to become aware of learning disorders and how to help those who struggle with reading.8

What a gift it is to able to take up and read a book! Let’s not take it for granted.

Reflections: Your Turn

Who taught you to read? Have you extended gratitude to that person? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.


For a contemporary classic on reading, see Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972).

Check out more from Reasons to Believe

  1. See Mortimer J. Adler, Intellect: Mind over Matter (New York: Macmillan, 1990).
  2. E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Joseph F. Kett, James Trefil, The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, rev. and upd., 3rd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002), vii-viii.
  3. Mayo Clinic Staff, “Dyslexia,” Mayo Clinic, accessed 12/12/19,…/d…/symptoms-causes/syc-20353552.
  4. Mayo Clinic Staff, “Dyslexia.”
  5. “Dyslexia at a Glance,” International Dyslexia Association, accessed 12/12/19,
  6. Kathryn Currier Moody, “Dyslexia in the Prison Population,” Education Update Online, December 2008,–dyslexia.html.
  7. “Dyslexia at a Glance,” International Dyslexia Association.
  8. This article is motivated by a segment on dyslexia that I watched on CBS News Sunday Morning, August 25, 2019.


About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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