Book Review :: Help Your Kids with Computer Coding

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books.

Ages 10 and up
Priddy, Sam. (Editor). Help Your Kids with Computer Coding: A Unique Step-by-Step Visual Guide from Binary Code to Building Games. DK Publishing: London, 2014.

While some of the topics in this book could be handled at a younger age, I think the format and “busyness” of the layout may make it more appropriate for an older child. As with all DK books, the full-color, enlarged pictures make it easy to visualize the topics. Unfortunately, I think the editors tried to cover too many points on a page and it is too easy for a child, who is new to programming, to be overwhelmed.

Layout aside, the progression of topics (from defining programming to introducing the programming languages, Scratch and Python) makes this one of the most comprehensive kid’s computer programming books on the market. I am especially pleased with the visual connection between blocks in Scratch and the programming commands in Python.

For a child who has been playing with Scratch and is ready to move on to the next level, this book is great. It helps to make programming connections as he moves from a concrete field of play (Scratch) to the more abstract (text-based coding with Python).  I would want to make sure that a student is encouraged to delve deeply into Scratch before moving onto learning Python.

A large part of computer programming is about problem-solving and I think playing around with Scratch is a great way to get kids used to the idea that nothing is perfect. To be a good programmer, you have to have a growth mindset, and know that you may need to try a few different ways to solve a problem…and then a another way…and possibly one more solution. The ability to directly see their results (and then change them) is a big part of Scratch’s appeal to young students.

That being said, I would recommend this book to parents who are interested in learning more about Scratch and how it relates to text-based programming languages. It’s another great reference book to have on hand for your interested programmer.