Research has shown a relationship between mothers’ beliefs about literacy, their educational and socioeconomic backgrounds, and their children’s emergent literacy awareness. Many Australian Indigenous children experience educational disadvantage, as do children whose parents are manual workers. One recommendation that is frequently made is for parents to be encouraged to participate in their children’s literacy development. Yet little is known about the implicit beliefs about literacy held by mothers from Indigenous-Australian and Anglo-Australian backgrounds. Such beliefs need to be taken into account in early childhood literacy programs. Eleven Indigenous and nine Anglo-Australian mothers from varied educational backgrounds were interviewed about how children learn to read and literacy in general. The findings indicate that the tertiary educated mothers, whether Indigenous or Anglo-Australian, held views that were mostly compatible with an emergent literacy perspective. The early school-leaving mothers focused more on the role of memory and repetition of specific skills in learning to read. These findings have implications for teachers, researchers, and family literacy programs.