• We develop a parallel reading model that includes a visual processing component.
• We examine whether the model can account for “serial” effects found in normal reading.
• The length by lexicality interaction is an emergent property of parallel models with visual processing.
• “Serial” effects in reading can be produced by parallel models.
• Visual processing may be the key to understanding “serial” effects in normal reading.
There is now considerable evidence showing that the time to read a word out loud is influenced by an interaction between orthographic length and lexicality. Given that length effects are interpreted by advocates of dual-route models as evidence of serial processing this would seem to pose a serious challenge to models of single word reading which postulate a common parallel processing mechanism for reading both words and nonwords (Coltheart et al., 2001 and Rastle et al., 2009). However, an alternative explanation of these data is that visual processes outside the scope of existing parallel models are responsible for generating the word-length related phenomena (Seidenberg & Plaut, 1998). Here we demonstrate that a parallel model of single word reading can account for the differential word-length effects found in the naming latencies of words and nonwords, provided that it includes a mapping from visual to orthographic representations, and that the nature of those orthographic representations are not preconstrained. The model can also simulate other supposedly “serial” effects. The overall findings were consistent with the view that visual processing contributes substantially to the word-length effects in normal reading and provided evidence to support the single-route theory which assumes words and nonwords are processed in parallel by a common mechanism.