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Processing speed is associated with reading performance. However, the literature is not clear either on the definition of processing speed or on why and how it contributes to reading performance. In this study we demonstrated that processing speed, as measured by reaction time, is not a unitary construct. Using the diffusion model of two-choice reaction time, we assessed processing speed in a series of same-different reaction time tasks for letter and number strings. We demonstrated that the association between reaction time and reading performance is driven by processing speed for reading-related information, but not motor or sensory encoding speed.