Chances were few and far between throughout an uninspiring contest but the best of them fell to the home side in the first half.
Adam Federici had to get down sharply to save a Benteke shot from the penalty spot before the striker created a glorious opening for Andreas Wiemann.
He picked out the Austrian with a low ball across the box but Wiemann wastefully smashed his shot over the bar from eight yards out.
Reading, who welcomed Adrian Mariappa and Shaun Cummings back into the defence in place of Kaspars Gorkss and Chris Gunter, came closest through two familiar sources, Adam Le Fondre and Sean Morrison.
Imposing centre-back Morrison headed wide from a corner while Le Fondre also missed the target with an acrobatic overhead kick from inside the six-yard box.
The Reading striker spurned an even better chance early in the second half when he failed to work Brad Guzan with a header from close range.
But it was Villa who looked the likeliest to break the deadlock, with the strength of Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor's pace causing Royals problems.
They got the winner with 10 minutes remaining when Benteke rose above the defence and headed a corner into the ground and past Federici.
Reading could not muster a late response and now face the daunting task of Manchester United at home on Saturday (5.30pm ko).