Although previous research has demonstrated that for adults external letters of words are more important than internal letters for lexical processing during reading, no comparable research has been conducted with children. This experiment explored, using the boundary paradigm during silent sentence reading, whether parafoveal pre-processing in English is more affected by the manipulation of external letters or internal letters, and whether this differs between skilled adult and beginner child readers. Six previews were generated: identity (e.g., monkey); external letter manipulations where either the beginning three letters of the word were substituted (e.g., rackey) or the last three letters of the word were substituted (e.g., monhig); internal letter manipulations; e.g., machey, mochiy); and an unrelated control condition (e.g., rachig). Results indicate that both adults and children undertook pre-processing of words in their entirety in the parafovea, and that the manipulation of external letters in preview was more harmful to participants’ parafoveal pre-processing than internal letters. The data also suggests developmental change in the time course of pre-processing, with children’s pre-processing delayed compared to adults’. These results not only provide further evidence for the importance of external letters to parafoveal processing and lexical identification for adults, but also demonstrate that such findings can be extended to children.