The developmental process of reading acquisition is frequently conceptualized as a self-organizing mental network consisting of lexico-semantic, phonological and orthographical components. The developmental nature of this network varies across languages and is known to impact second-language learners of typologically different languages. Yet, it remains largely unknown whether such cross-linguistic differences interact within young bilingual learners of two typologically different languages. In the present study, we compared Chinese–English bilinguals and English monolinguals (ages 6–12, N = 134) born and raised in the US on their English language and reading skills including vocabulary, phonological and morphological awareness, and word reading. We conducted whole group and subgroup analyses on younger participants to examine the extent of the effect. In monolinguals, phonological abilities directly predicted English word reading. In contrast, in bilinguals, both phonological and morphological abilities made an indirect contribution to English literacy via vocabulary knowledge, even though bilinguals had monolingual-like language and reading abilities in English. These findings offer new insights into the flexibility of the phonological and lexical pathways for learning to read.