How Executive Function Skills Impact Reading

What are Executive Function Skills?

Executive function skills are part of our daily lives. These are the planning, organizing, and prioritizing skills that help you start a task and stay focused on it until completion. From doing your homework to planning a family vacation to building a sand castle, these skills are critical.

We don’t often think of the connection executive functions skills have with reading, but these skills also impact reading.

How Executive Function Impacts Reading

Any time you read:

  • You decide what you are going to read.
  • You decide when you are going to read.
  • You plan your reading to fit it into your day.

As you read a news story, an article, or a book, you constantly are using your executive functions skills by asking yourself:

  • Is this important?
  • Do I need to remember this?
  • What associations can I draw to the characters?
  • Do I have any personal life experiences that are relatable?

As you ask yourself questions about what you are reading as you are reading, it helps you retain, understand, and fully comprehend what you read. This is actually a component of executive function.

What reading processes are affected by executive function?

Your working memory and mental flexibility are activated by your executive function skills (asking yourself these questions, planning, and organizing your thoughts). Once you are able to organize your thoughts with your working memory and flexibility, you are able to act succinctly.

  • Vocabulary: helps you organize and categorize words to retain meaning
  • Grammar: helps you interpret content (the nuances and subtleties of the English language, for example: whether a group of words is a statement or a question)
  • Word and sentence emphasis: what words and sentences are important to gather meaning from (what type of mood or emotional context does the passage convey)

Executive function skills and working memory come into every aspect of reading. This includes retrieving word meaning and integrating that with prior knowledge and experience.

Your ability to maintain focus impacts your ability to read easily. Working memory comes into play by helping us to hold onto multiple bits of information in a paragraph as well as a story.

Executive Function Skills Build Foundational Reading Skills

Research by Laurie Cutting and George McCloskey has established the contributions of executive function to the reading process. Executive function skills work directly with working memory. If you improve your executive function skills, your reading comprehension skills will naturally improve. There are specific activities for different age groups that strengthen executive function and reading skills.

Summer Reading Program 2019

Summer Reading Program Includes Executive Function Activities

We included executive function activities in our Summer Reading Program because of this direct connection. As executive function skills improve, reading skills improve.

The Summer Reading Program is for entering kindergarteners through 8th graders. Every student can improve their reading skills.

Learn more about our Summer Reading Program here.

Who is Bonnie Terry?

Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET is the author of Five Minutes To Better Reading Skills, Ten Minutes To Better Study Skills and numerous others books, reading games, and guides. She is a Board Certified Educational Therapist and internationally recognized as America’s Leading Learning Specialist and the founder of Terry is an expert in identifying students’ learning disabilities. Ms. Terry coaches teachers and parents so they can give their child a 2 to 4-year learning advantage in just 45-60 minutes a day. She is a frequent media guest and speaker.