Previous research has established the relevance of working memory for cognitive development. Yet the factors responsible for shaping performance in the complex span tasks used to assess working memory capacity are not fully understood. We report a study of reading span in 7- to 11-year old children that addresses several contemporary theoretical issues. We demonstrate that both the timing and the accuracy of recall are affected by the presence or absence of a semantic connection between the processing requirement and the memoranda. Evidence that there can be synergies between processing and memory argues against the view that complex span simply measures the competition between these activities. We also demonstrate a consistent relationship between the rate of completing processing operations (sentence reading) and recall accuracy. At the same time, the shape and strength of this function varies with the task configuration. Taken together, these results demonstrate the potential for reconstructive influences to shape working memory performance among children.