At 2 1/2 years of age, children who later developed reading disabilities were deficient in the length, syntactic complexity, and pronunciation accuracy of their spoken language, but not in lexical or speech discrimination skills. As 3-year-olds, these children began to show deficits in receptive vocabulary and object-naming abilities, and as 5-year-olds they exhibited weaknesses in object-naming, phonemic awareness, and letter-sound knowledge that have characterized kindergartners who became poor readers in other studies. These late preschool differences were related to subsequent reading status as well as to prior language skills, but early syntactic proficiency nevertheless accounted for some unique variance in grade 2 achievement when differences at age 5 were statistically controlled. The language deficits of dyslexic children were unrelated to maternal reading ability and were not observed in children from dyslexic families who became normal readers. The implications of the results for etiological issues are discussed.