Previous U.K. population-based studies have found associations amongst early speech and language difficulties, socioeconomic disadvantage and children's word-reading ability later on. We examine the strength of these associations in a recent U.K. population-based birth cohort. Analyses were based on 13,680 participants. Linear regression models were fitted to identify factors that were associated with word-reading score at the age of 7 years. Path analysis models were fitted to examine phonological skills as a mediator of the relationships. We found that male gender, preterm birth, naming vocabulary at age five, concerns about speech and language, maternal education, type of housing tenure, lone parenting, parent attachment and frequency of reading to the child were all independently associated with word reading. For each of these predictors, there was evidence suggesting that a substantial proportion of the effect may be mediated by phonological skills (ranging from 52 to 89%). Despite policy intervention, many of the same risk factors identified in previous studies still predict children's word-reading ability in the United Kingdom. Results support the phonological model, with phonological skills on the pathway to word reading. What is already known about this topic?: A range of studies has implicated poor socioeconomic background and disadvantaged family circumstances as risks for children's poor word reading. Good early development of language skills is firmly established as a pathway to promoting reading ability. Not all poor readers show deficits in phonological skills, although such deficits correlate highly with reading difficulties. What this paper adds: This is an original analysis of factors in a recent cohort of U.K. children, using stratified sampling to be representative of the U.K. population as a whole. A range of child-specific, family socioeconomic and family relationship factors were independently associated with word-reading ability when children were age seven. For each of the predictors, there was evidence suggesting that a substantial proportion of the effect, if causal, may be mediated by phonological skills (ranging from 52 to 89%). Implications for theory, policy or practice: Despite policy intervention, many of the same risk factors identified in older studies still predict children's word-reading ability in the United Kingdom. Results lend weight to the phonological model, where deficits in phonological skills are on the pathway to word reading.