Supporting Executive Function Through Books

Engaging stories that support children’s attention, working memory, and flexible thinking skills

Executive function skills play a critical role in our ability to control impulses, develop working memory, and think flexibly to solve problems. These are skills that children will use throughout their lives. We’ve curated a set of books that foster these skills in fun and engaging ways.

Illustration from the book I Got Rhythm
focus and attention

I Got The Rhythm

Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison and illustrated by Frank Morrison, this story features a girl who discovers the rhythm throughout her neighborhood. She taps, shakes, and snaps to the rhythms all around her!

Illustration from the book The Curious Garden
focus and attention

The Curious Garden

Written and illustrated by Peter Brown, this is the story of a little boy who cares for a very unique garden over many years.

Illustration from the book Freedom Soup
focus and attention

Freedom Soup

Written by Tami Charles and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara, this is the story of a little girl who helps her grandmother make their family’s special soup. As they cook, the grandmother shares the soup’s history in a very vivid and captivating way.

Chimpanzees for Tea
Working Memory

Chimpanzees for Tea

Written and illustrated by Jo Empson, this story is about a boy who goes shopping for his mother. But when he loses the grocery list, Vincent has a hard time remembering what he needs to buy!

Not A Box Cover
Cognitive Flexibility

Not a Box

Written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis, this book is about a bunny whose imagination and creativity turns a box into everything but a box!

All of Baby, Nose to Toes book pages
focus and attention

All of Baby, Nose to Toes

Written by Victoria Adler and illustrated by Hiroe Nakata, this book invites young children to actively participate to identify different body parts.

Hide and Seek book cover
working memory

Hide and Seek

Written and illustrated by Taro Gomi, this book supports young children to develop working memory by providing visuals to refer back to as they look for objects hidden within the illustrations.

From Head to Toe book cover
cognitive flexibility

From Head to Toe

Written and illustrated by Eric Carle, this book encourages children to think flexibly as they pretend to be different animals.


Key Takeaways

Listen and move

Help children grow and sustain their focus by actively involving them in the book reading experience. Use books that encourage children to listen and move in fun, new ways.

Connect and engage

Children will engage more around stories that connect to their interests, lives, and experiences. While reading, comment on passages that highlight connections, and ask children to share their own connections to the story.

Predict and explain

When children are interested in a story, they will likely show increased focus and attention. Prompt children to make predictions about new stories and encourage children to explain their thinking about characters’ actions or events in the stories.