The purpose of this study was to determine the natureand role of knowledge constructed by the child at thevery beginning of his or her contact with printedwords, i.e., during the logographic phase. The resultsof four experiments conducted with 5-year-oldsprovided no supporting evidence for global processingof words. They did suggest, however, that childrenrely on the letters in words, which act as wordidentifiers. A few letters appear to suffice,particularly if they are rare or in word-initialposition. Moreover, letter order is not processed bysome children. The results as a whole indicate thatthe letters in a word serve as its identifying visualproperties as long as, for the child, the solefunction of the written language is to encode meaning.This phase appears to be crucial in learning to read,since it supplies the precursors upon which lateracquisitions are based.