To become a proficient reader, children have to learn mappings between print, sound and meaning. There is debate over whether reading instruction should focus on the relations between print and sound or between print and meaning. In an artificial word learning study using adults, Taylor, Davis, and Rastle (2017) compared sound focused or meaning focused training, demonstrating that sound training was superior for learning to read. However, a benefit from sound focused training is likely dependent on prior acquisition of effective sound to meaning relations of words. To explore this, we developed a connectionist model of reading. We exposed the model to sound or meaning focused training, but varied the model’s pre-acquired oral language skills. The results showed that proficiency in oral language is a determinant of the advantage of print to sound focused training, indicating that reading training should address both oral language skills and print to sound mappings.