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We review current knowledge about the nature of reading development and disorders, distinguishing between the processes involved in learning to decode print, and the processes involved in reading comprehension.Children with decoding difficulties/dyslexia experience deficits in phoneme awareness, letter-sound knowledge and rapid automatized naming in the preschool years and beyond. These phonological/language difficulties appear to be proximal causes of the problems in learning to decode print in dyslexia. We review data from a prospective study of children at high risk of dyslexia to show that being at family risk of dyslexia is a primary risk factor for poor reading and children with persistent language difficulties at school entry are more likely to develop reading problems. Early oral language difficulties are strong predictors of later difficulties in reading comprehension.There are two distinct forms of reading disorder in children: dyslexia (a difficulty in learning to translate print into speech) and reading comprehension impairment. Both forms of reading problem appear to be predominantly caused by deficits in underlying oral language skills. Implications for screening and for the delivery of robust interventions for language and reading are discussed.