Publication Details

Howard, S. J., Powell, T., Vasseleu, E., Johnstone, S. & Melhuish, E. (2016). Enhancing preschoolers' executive functions through embedding cognitive activities in shared book reading. Educational Psychology Review, online first 1-22.


Given evidence that early executive functioning sets the stage for a broad range of subsequent outcomes, researchers have sought to identify ways to foster these cognitive capacities. The current series of studies sought to design, develop, and provide evidence for the efficacy of embedding cognitive activities in a commonplace activity-shared reading of a children's book. The book, Quincey Quokka's Quest, required children to control their thinking and behavior to help the story's main character through a series of obstacles. The first study investigated effects of reading with embedded cognitive activities in individual and group contexts on young children's executive functions (EFs). The second study compared reading with embedded cognitive activities against a more active control condition (dialogic reading) that similarly engaged children in the reading process yet lacked clear engagement of EFs. The third study sought to investigate whether the effect of reading the story with embedded EF activities changed across differing doses of the intervention and whether effects persisted 2 months post-intervention. All studies provided evidence of intervention effects on shifting, with working memory benefits shown in two of the three studies, in as little as 3 weeks (compared to more traditional reading). Study 3 further indicated maintenance of these gains 2 months later. This suggests the efficacy of embedding cognitive activities in the context of everyday activities, thereby extending the range of users and contexts in which this approach can be used.



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