Sight word learning and memory were studied to clarify how early during development readers process visual letter patterns that are not dictated by phonology, and whether their word learning is influenced by the legality of letter patterns. Forty kindergartners and first graders were taught to read 12 words containing either single consonants (e.g., FAN) or doubled consonants in initial illegal or final legal positions (e.g., RRUG or JETT). Children required fewer trials to learn to read legally spelled words with single or doubled consonants than illegally spelled words containing initial doublets. On a spelling posttest, children recalled single consonants somewhat better than final doublets, and final doublets much better than initial illegal doublets. More advanced beginning readers tended to regularize illegal initial doublets by doubling the final rather than initial consonants when they wrote these words. Poorer learning and memory for initial doublets occurred despite the salience of their position in words. Findings indicate that beginning readers use orthographic patterns to read and remember words earlier than predicted by phase theory, but their memory is constrained by their knowledge of written word structure.