The role of phonological recoding in children's reading was investigated by means of a task requiring comprehension of sentence meaning: The child's task was to decide whether a sequence of printed letter strings was a meaningful sentence or not. Meaningless sentences that are meaningful when phonologically recoded (e.g., "He ran threw the street") produced more incorrect responses than did meaningless sentences that remain meaningless when phonologically recoded (e.g., "He ran sew the street"). The difference in error rates between the two sentence types diminished as a function of age. Control experiments showed that these results were not due to visual similarity effects, nor to imperfect ability to spell homophones. It was concluded that very young readers rely extensively on phonological recoding when reading for meaning; as they grow older, reliance on visual encoding becomes progressively more important.