The unique role of executive function skills in predicting Hong Kong kindergarteners' reading comprehension

Br J Educ Psychol. 2018 Dec;88(4):628-644. doi: 10.1111/bjep.12207. Epub 2018 Jan 15.


Background: Word reading and linguistic comprehension skills are two crucial components in reading comprehension, according to the Simple View of Reading (SVR). Some researchers have posited that a third component should be involved in reading and understanding texts, namely executive function (EF) skills.

Aim: This study was novel in two ways. Not only did we tested EF skills as a predictor of reading comprehension in a non-alphabetic language (i.e., Chinese) to extend the theoretical model of SVR, we also examined reading comprehension further in kindergarten children (age 5) in Hong Kong, in the attempt to reveal possible early precursors of reading comprehension.

Sample(s): A group of 170 K3 kindergarteners was recruited in Hong Kong.

Methods: Children's word reading was assessed. Their linguistic comprehension was assessed with phonological awareness, verbal short-term memory, and vocabulary knowledge. Using a structured observation task, Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders (HTKS), we measured their composite scores for EF skills.

Results: Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders performance predicted unique variance in children's Chinese reading comprehension concurrently beyond word reading and a set of linguistic comprehension skills.

Conclusions: The results highlight the important role of EF skills in beginning readers' reading comprehension.

Keywords: Chinese; comprehension; executive function; reading.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comprehension / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Reading*
  • Vocabulary*