Young children often make mirror errors when learning to read and write, for instance writing their first name from right to left in English. This competence vanishes in most adult readers, who typically cannot read mirror words but retain a strong competence for mirror recognition of images. We used fast behavioral and fMRI repetition priming to probe the brain mechanisms underlying mirror generalization and its absence for words in adult readers. In two groups of French and Japanese readers, we show that the left fusiform visual word form area, a major site of learning during reading acquisition, simultaneously shows a maximal effect of mirror priming for pictures and an absence of mirror priming for words. Thus, learning to read recruits an area which possesses a property of mirror invariance, seemingly present in all primates, which is deleterious for letter recognition and may explain children's transient mirror errors.