The ability to recognize strings of letters as words, also known as orthographic processing, is a key component of reading. The ability to develop this skill has commonly been attributed to prior acquisition of a spoken language, but Grainger et al. argue that linguistic ability may instead be related to simple object recognition. To test this, Grainger and colleagues studied orthographic processing in a group of captive but freely ranging baboons, who learned to read and distinguish real English words from non-words with remarkable accuracy. These results suggest that a basic ability to recognize words does not require complex linguistic understanding.