We examined the acquisition of initial mental graphemic representations (MGRs) by 46 kindergarten children (mean age = 5 years, 9 months) at risk for literacy development because of low socioeconomic status. Using a storybook context, we exposed children to novel nonwords that varied in their phonotactic and orthotactic probabilities and then assessed the children's development of initial MGRs through spelling and reading recognition tasks. The children developed some initial MGRs but less than past reports of children from middle socioeconomic status backgrounds. Children with more advanced word recognition abilities developed more initial MGRs than their peers with less advanced word recognition skills. Like previous reports, the words' linguistic properties affected initial MGR acquisition and MGR acquisition ability predicted reading and spelling achievement above other known predictors. The results speak to the importance of increasing the print and orthographic knowledge of children at-risk for adequate literacy development.