Visual processing deficits in dyslexic readers are argued to evolve as a consequence of reading failure. This study examines dorsal stream functioning of children before they commence formal reading instruction to determine whether visual deficits precede reading difficulties. Coherent motion and visual frequency doubling detection were measured in children at familial risk for dyslexia and in children unselected for family reading history. Here we show that children who are at family risk for dyslexia demonstrate dorsal stream deficits before they learn to read, whilst demonstrating no corresponding deficits in coherent form and static grating control tasks. Results indicate that the dorsal visual deficits observed in dyslexic readers are unlikely to be the result of reading failure.