The present study examined the acquisition of basic sight-sound correspondences vital to the beginning reading stage as a function of reading ability, age and type of task. Visual-verbal integration in poor and normal readers was examined using a paired-associate learning task technique. All subjects associated both nonsense syllables and real words with Sanskrit forms. It was predicted that poor and normal readers would perform equally well under the real word condition; however, it was expected that normal readers would perform significantly better than poor readers under the nonsense syllable condition. This prediction was only partially confirmed. No significant differences emerged between young reader groups (grade two) under either response condition; however, old reader groups (grade five) differed significantly when they were required to associate nonsense syllables with visual forms prior to pairing real words with visual forms. Results were interpreted in terms of the failure of grade five poor readers to make the transition from decoding to skilled reading which consequently has caused them to fall progressively further behind compared to normal reading classmates. Additionally, the present data pointed out the importance of examining the question of visual-verbal integration as a function of age group under study.