How Executive Functions contribute to Reading Comprehension

Nouwens, Suzan and Groen, Margriet and Kleemans, Tijs and Verhoeven, Ludo (2021) How Executive Functions contribute to Reading Comprehension. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 91 (1). pp. 169-192. ISSN 0007-0998

Text (How_Executive_Functions_Revision)
How_Executive_Functions_Revision.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.

Download (2MB)


Background Executive functions have been proposed to account for individual variation in reading comprehension beyond the contributions of decoding skills and language skills. However, insight into the direct and indirect effects of multiple executive functions on fifth‐grade reading comprehension, while accounting for decoding and language skills, is limited. Aim The present study investigated the direct and indirect effects of fourth‐grade executive functions (i.e., working memory, inhibition, and planning) on fifth‐grade reading comprehension, after accounting for decoding and language skills. Sample The sample included 113 fourth‐grade children (including 65 boys and 48 girls; Age M = 9.89; SD = .44 years). Methods The participants were tested on their executive functions (working memory, inhibition and planning), and their decoding skills, language skills (vocabulary and syntax knowledge) and reading comprehension, one year later. Results Using structural equation modelling, the results indicated direct effects of working memory and planning on reading comprehension, as well as indirect effects of working memory and inhibition via decoding (χ2 = 2.46). Conclusions The results of the present study highlight the importance of executive functions for reading comprehension after taking variance in decoding and language skills into account: Both working memory and planning uniquely contributed to reading comprehension. In addition, working memory and inhibition also supported decoding. As a practical implication, educational professionals should not only consider the decoding and language skills children bring into the classroom, but their executive functions as well.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
British Journal of Educational Psychology
Additional Information:
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Nouwens, S., Groen, M.A., Kleemans, T. and Verhoeven, L. (2021), How executive functions contribute to reading comprehension. Br J Educ Psychol, 91: 169-192 e12355. which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Uncontrolled Keywords:
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
29 Apr 2020 08:15
Last Modified:
22 Jul 2022 00:24