The influence of item familiarity upon memory span was examined in adults and children aged 5, 7, and 10 years by comparing the recall of words and nonwords. Using a probed recall task, both item recall and position recall were tested. The effect of familiarity upon item recall was found to develop with age, from no effects in the 5-year-olds to significant effects in the older children and adults. By contrast, no effect of familiarity was found at any age when recall of position was required. Dissociations between word length effects and familiarity effects supported the conclusion that the familiarity effect does not result from rehearsal. Several explanations for the source of the familiarity effect were examined, and the familiarity effect was attributed to a strategic redintegration or reconstruction process, which is necessary for item recall but not for position recall.