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A growing number of children’s books authors are using fiction to teach the fundamentals of coding, a trend that has coincided with a push by Silicon Valley to fund and expand technology training in schools. Coding is the little thing that makes software, apps, and websites possible. In the simplest terms, it’s very specific, step by step instructions that tell a computer exactly what to do.
But why is coding so important? Because it is now considered a Life Skill!
Coding is a basic literacy in the digital age, and it’s important for kids to understand – and be able to innovate with – the technology around them. Career Preparation: There’s a high demand for workers in the tech industry; mastering coding at a young age allows kids to excel in any field they choose!
As time marches forward, the resources and opportunities for boys and girls to pick up this skill are increasing as well. Here are some of my top picks for Code-Cracking Books for Inquisitive Young Minds:
The Code Cracking Booklist
Meet Ruby―a small girl with a huge imagination, and the determination to solve any puzzle. As Ruby stomps around her world making new friends, including the Wise Snow Leopard, the Friendly Foxes, and the Messy Robots, kids will be introduced to the fundamentals of computational thinking, like how to break big problems into small ones, create step-by-step plans, look for patterns and think outside the box through storytelling. Then, these basic concepts at the core of coding and programming will be reinforced through fun playful exercises and activities that encourage exploration and creativity. In Ruby’s world, anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
How to Code a Sand Castle by Josh Funk
All summer, Pearl has been trying to build the perfect sandcastle, but out-of-control Frisbees and mischievous puppies keep getting in the way! Pearl and her robot friend Pascal have one last chance, and this time, they’re going to use code to get the job done. Using fundamental computer coding concepts like sequences and loops, Pearl and Pascal are able to break down their sandcastle problem into small, manageable steps. If they can create working code, this could turn out to be the best beach day ever!
The Girls Who Code Organization programs work to inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st-century opportunities. Girls Who Code is committed to providing computer science education to 1 million girls ages 11-18 by the year 2020. How do they do that? By providing mentorship, education and experience and their club locations and summer immersion programs. This non-profit is not only phenomenal, they have published a remarkable library of books as well! Here are two standouts:
Part how-to, part girl-empowerment, and all fun, this non-fiction book created by Girls Who Code CEO & Founder, Reshma Saujani, is an invitation to the wonderful world of coding. Whether you’re a girl who’s never coded before, a girl who codes, or a parent raising one, this entertaining book, printed in bold two-color and featuring art on every page, will have you itching to create your own apps, games, and robots to make the world a better place.
Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming by Jason R. Briggs
For Kids Aged 10+ (And Their Parents)
Python for Kids brings Python to life and brings you (and your parents) into the world of programming. The ever-patient Jason R. Briggs will guide you through the basics as you experiment with unique (and often hilarious) example programs that feature ravenous monsters, secret agents, thieving ravens, and more. New terms are defined; code is colored, dissected, and explained; and quirky, full-color illustrations keep things on the lighter side.
Chapters end with programming puzzles designed to stretch your brain and strengthen your understanding. By the end of the book, you’ll have programmed two complete games: a clone of the famous Pong and “Mr. Stick Man Races for the Exit”—a platform game with jumps, animation, and much more.
As you strike out on your programming adventure, you’ll learn how to:
- Use fundamental data structures like lists, tuples, and maps
- Organize and reuse your code with functions and modules
- Use control structures like loops and conditional statements
- Draw shapes and patterns with Python’s turtle module
- Create games, animations, and other graphical wonders with tkinter
Super Scratch: Learn to Program by Making Cool Games by The LEAD Project
In Super Scratch Programming Adventure!, kids learn programming fundamentals as they make their very own playable video games. They’ll create projects inspired by classic arcade games that can be programmed (and played!) in an afternoon. The book’s patient, step-by-step explanations of the code and fun programming challenges will have kids creating their own games in no time.
This full-color comic book makes programming concepts like flow control, subroutines, and data types effortless to absorb. Packed with ideas for games that kids will be proud to show off, Super Scratch Programming Adventure! is the perfect first step for the budding programmer.
ScratchJr is a free, introductory computer programming language that runs on iPads and Android tablets. Inspired by Scratch, the wildly popular programming language used by millions of children worldwide, ScratchJr helps even younger kids create their own playful animations, interactive stories, and dynamic games.
The Official ScratchJr Book is the perfect companion to this free app and makes coding easy and fun for all. Kids learn to program by connecting blocks of code to make characters move, jump, dance and sing.
Each chapter includes several activities that build on one another, culminating in a fun final project. These hands-on activities help kids develop computational-thinking, problem-solving, and design skills. In each activity, you’ll find:
- Step-by-step, easy-to-follow directions
- Ways to connect the activity with literacy and math concepts
- Tips for grown-ups and teachers
- Creative challenges to take the learning further
- By the end of the book, kids will be ready for all sorts of new programming adventures!
Welcome to Stately Academy, a school which is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing prowess with coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes!
From graphic novel superstar (and high school computer programming teacher) Gene Luen Yang comes a wildly entertaining new series that combines logic puzzles and basic programming instruction with a page-turning mystery plot!
Coding computer programs are one of the most valuable skills for anyone to have. Written for children with little to no coding experience, Coding Games in Scratch guides children through building platform games, puzzles, racers, and 3-D action games.
Schools have incorporated computer coding into their curriculum, beginning as early as kindergarten to ensure students understand the languages and uses of computer coding. The step-by-step guides are simple and easy to follow with Minecraft-style pixel art. Children will learn essential coding skills while having fun and creating games to play with their friends. The many different styles and types of games are covered, such as classic and arcade games. When people learn to code in Scratch, they learn important strategies for solving problems, designing projects, and communicating ideas.
Lauren Ipsum is a whimsical journey through a land where logic and computer science come to life.
Meet Lauren, an adventurer lost in Userland who needs to find her way home by solving a series of puzzles. As she visits places like the Push & Pop Café and makes friends with people like Hugh Rustic and the Wandering Salesman, Lauren learns about computer science without even realizing it—and so do you!
From writing simple coding instructions using Scratch software, to learning the coding skills to create your own computer game and even design your own website, this book leads the way. By breaking this daunting subject down into the 10 “super skills” needed, young readers can get familiar with computer coding and build on their skills as they progress through the book. Starting off with a short introduction that poses the question, “What is coding?,” the super skills of coding then explains how to use Scratch coding software to give coding instructions, write simple code, and use loops; debug and fix code; and use coding knowledge to create a simple computer game and a webpage using simple HTML. With easy-to-follow explanations accompanied by clear, step-by-step graphics throughout, this is a great first coding book for middle-school children, ages 8+ interested in learning about computer science and web design.
So you Want to be a Coder ? by Jane Bedell , out in May 2016
Kids Get Coding! Online Safety for Coders by Heather Lyons
How can you stay safe while surfing the Internet? You need to be an Internet superhero! The internet is an exciting world, but there are things you should be careful of as well. Find out how information is used online and how Internet superheroes protect their identities. Then use the link in this book to try fun activities that will boost your superhero skills.
Something To Do
Organizations to get your kids coding
The organization Code.org provides free online coding lessons and has crafted coding curriculums for elementary, middle and high school students. Last year, Apple released a free app to teach the programming language Swift. Scratch Jr, a coding program designed for 4- to 7-year-olds, now has some five million users.
Incredibly Amazing Coding Tutorials
Don’t know how to code? Have no idea what I’m talking about? Ten to one your child does. Here are some great and engaging hours of code to inspire anyone !!! Yep, and I mean that, anyone !!!
One of the authors on our book list, researcher Marina Umaschi Bers has created KIBO. KIBO are toys for learning about technology. Children build their own robot with KIBO, program it to do what they want, and decorate it – all without a PC, tablet, or smartphone. Not only that but KIBO is more than a robot kit. It allows children to make anything they want. They can use everyday materials, such as recyclables and arts and crafts, and integrate them into their KIBO projects. When getting a KIBO one has access to lots of fun activities to do both at home and school. KIBO robots are for ages Pre-K to 2nd grade.
Learn To Code, Code To Learn
Mitch Resnick from MIT has created new programming language called Scratch which makes it easier for kids to code their own animated stories, video games, and interactive art.
“I see coding (computer programming) as an extension of writing. The ability to code allows you to “write” new types of things – interactive stories, games, animations, and simulations. And, as with traditional writing, there are powerful reasons for everyone to learn to code.” Mitch Resnick
Dash and Dot
Opening their eyes to how the world around them works, Dash and Dot guide kids through the world of coding and robotics, turning ideas into adventures. Children learn through play. Combining a real robot with coding fires up a child’s imagination.
Using Dash and Dot in Education:
Coding Curriculum for K-5
Our curriculum makes it easy to integrate coding into a school day. We provide scaffolding to guide beginners as well as extensions to challenge more experienced coders.
All lessons include detailed lesson procedures, guiding questions, evaluation rubrics. Find out more about robotics, coding, and relevance to the Common Core.
Here are some actual lessons being taught in over 600 elementary schools.