Learning to read has been a critically important topic in scholastic, academic, and governmental discussion for many decades. Literacy, considered to be the backbone of successful nations, has demonstrated an imperative role in the development of citizens who can contribute to the growth and betterment of society. Numerous studies have focused on the typical and struggling student, how language and literacy skills are acquired, and what factors are responsible for difficulties in this process. Far less is known about the nature of highly proficient reading skills and the development thereof. Recent concerns expressed by educational, business, and scientific communities reveal a deficit in highly proficient high school and college graduates, suggesting that US status as a leading world power may be jeopardized if more highly able students do not emerge to compete in the global marketplace. Three perspectives on highly proficient reading from the extant literature are discussed herein: (1) the inherency perspective where highly proficient reading is characterized as an innate trait; (2) the expertise perspective where highly proficient reading is developed over time; and (3) the inherency with a focus on development of skills perspective, where both innate abilities and development and other sources of influence are thought to contribute to highly proficient reading; a bridge between the two. Consequently, this study aims to uncover the nature and development of language and literacy skills and early predictors of highly proficient reading achievement. Utilizing a longitudinal data sample of nearly 1,000 students, developmental trajectories and skill constellations of readers were examined. Latent profile analysis, latent growth curves, and multinomial logistic regression were used to elucidate the nature of skills highly proficient readers possess, their paths to such levels of achievement, and whether preschool status in reading and/or growth across time predicted students' later reading achievement, understanding that the stronger predictor may vary with the constellation of fifth grade literacy skills observed. Results suggest that heterogeneous and homogeneous profiles of language and literacy skills characterize student achievement in elementary school. These constellations of skills are characterized by growth trajectories which vary significantly between profiles, suggesting that both preschool status and growth are unique characteristics of each. Predictions of latent profile membership also varied by predictor as well as by profile membership. Overall, preschool reading skills were associated with greater odds of being highly proficient at fifth grade, followed closely by reading skill growth. Early vocabulary skills and growth were also associated with increased odds of attaining proficient and highly proficient reading skills by fifth grade, as well as distinguishing odds of membership in profiles with heterogeneous constellations of skills (strong decoding and/or reading comprehension and relatively weaker vocabulary) from those characterized by consistently high language and literacy skills. Overall, the perspective of inherency with an emphasis on development of skills seems to best describe the profiles, paths of literacy growth, and predicted achievement associated with highly proficient reading.