It is considered unlikely that evolution selected specialized neuronal circuits for reading. Instead, it has been suggested that acquisition of cultural skills like reading is rooted in, and interacts with, naturally evolved brain mechanisms for visual and auditory processing. Here, we review how the learning of letter symbols interacts with brain mechanisms for audiovisual and speech processing. The aim of this review is to honor the work of the late Professor Leo Blomert. His work highlights the importance of intact and automated letter/speech-sound integration for fluent reading, but also shows that this depends on the orthography, demonstrating cross-linguistic difference in how reading acquisition transforms brain function. We contend that Professor Blomert's work illustrates the importance of (cultural) neuroscience for education. © 2014 Elsevier GmbH.