Do you remember the Y2K freak out? Were you one of the people in Time Square partying like it was your last night on earth? Are you still using up those canned goods and toilet paper from your emergency cache?
Nobody knew what to do when the binary code flipped over, except the computer nerds of course. They never lost their cool. I'm a nerd myself, but I'm a literature-loving, crossword-working, NPR-listening geek. I can't speak computer. My kids are already showing interest in technology as they live in a world of toys and smartphones that encourages tech-speak. So I'm doing what I always do: turning to books for the answer. Here are five great books to help kids explore coding.
by Linda Liukas
This one goes at the top of the list because it's my favorite. Written for kids as young as four, this is part picture book and part activity book.
Ruby is curious and loves puzzles. In each of the nine chapters, Ruby solves a problem that teaches a basic principle of coding, but it's really more about how to use your brain in a new way. This quote from the author made me buy the book in the first place: “Coding is like crayons or LEGO blocks – a way to express yourself. This book is not about 'learning to code'. It doesn't teach any specific programming languages, but introduces the fundamentals of computational thinking that every future kid coder will need."
If coding is how my kids want to express themselves, I'll embrace it.
by Marc Scott
Scratch and Python are free programming languages any kid can use. This book walks them through how to create characters, animate photos, and even make their own computer games. The illustrations make me want to play Packman and Galaga, and the instructions are easy enough for kids eight through 12.
by Heather Lyons and Elizabeth Tweedale
“Kids Get Coding" is a series by Heather Lyons and Elizabeth Tweedale that teaches young kids how to explore computers from the inside out. This particular book from the series is a necessary one for any kid getting into technology. It teaches them how to be safe while on the internet. It explains where your information goes, how it can be used by others, and how you can protect yourself. The layout is fun and easy to read with Data Duck, the series mascot, carrying you through the chapters.
by Sasha Ariel Alston
This book is less manual and more early reader for kids seven to 10. It's a short novel about Sasha, a girl who reluctantly takes coding classes at a summer camp. Her mom is a software developer who gives her the secret to unlock the coding puzzles and she can't help but get hooked.
It's a fun and fast read and might encourage kids who are intimidated by technology to give it a try (or adults for that matter). Even I felt like I could handle it after reading this. Also, the author is a college kid in New York who had done internships with Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Not too shabby.
by Dean Robbins
Margaret Hamilton was a pioneer in the space industry. She created code for the Apollo 8, 9, 10, and 11 missions. Without her intellect and creativity, NASA and our country's success in space would not be the same.
This book celebrates her smarts in a way that kids, ages four through eight, can understand. It shows her as a little girl who loved numbers, math, and asking questions. Then it follows her as she begins to solve problems and explore the world of coding. It's a wonderful tribute to an ambitious and brilliant woman and is a great inspirational read for kids who want to get into the sciences.
Coding is not my language, but it might be my kids'. I want them to be well-versed in whatever dialect they choose and these books are both technical and engaging enough to capture my interest as well as theirs. Cheers to learning to be a nerd in a whole new way.