Students who struggle with reading often lack the thinking skills, such as memory, planning, and the ability to shift focus when necessary, that seem natural to skilled readers. For many teachers, the process of reading is so familiar that they often have difficulty explaining it to students. Much like riding a bicycle, we know we can do it, but explaining how it happens is another story entirely!
Recently, I had a conversation with a reading specialist colleague who was worried about a young reader who didn’t seem to have the memory skills to understand text.
I mentioned that the student might have difficulty with executive skills, which can sometimes explain the difference between good and poor readers. Research is just beginning to show the importance of executive skills for reading comprehension (e.g., Borella, Carretti, & Pelegrina, 2010; Cain, 2006; Locascio, Mahone, Eason, & Cutting, 2010), and understanding that importance has the potential to change the way we teach our students.
What Are Executive Skills?
Think of the term executive skills as an umbrella term that refers to a set of mental tools we use to manage tasks and achieve goals (Anderson, 2002; Dawson & Guare, 2010; Goldstein & Naglieri, 2014; Meltzer, 2010)