The first computer programmer was a woman: Ada Lovelace. And while women only make up about 26% of the computing workforce, as of 2016, that number is poised to rise.
Girls code — and that’s not changing any time soon. The point of organizations like Girls Who Code and Code.org is to get more girls (and more different kinds of people, overall) into the fold, so that a new, more diverse generation of coders can shape the digital world that lies ahead for all of us.
Here are 10 books to inspire the future Ada Lovelaces in our midst.
Ages 4 - 8
Linda Liukas has all the coding cred you need — she’s a programmer and illustrator from Helsinki, Finland, founder of Rails Girls, an organization that teaches coding fundamentals to girls and young women worldwide, and author of Hello Ruby, which broke records on Kickstarter as the most-funded children’s book — and with good reason.
Hello Ruby is two books in one — part picture book, part workbook. And the problems to solve can be done with a pencil. The point is to teach young girls how to think like a coder: What’s the problem? What’s the solution? Is there a pattern? What are the steps? Fast Company called it “way more than a children’s book.”
Ages 8 - 12
Girls Who Code is a book, yes, but it’s also a movement — and that movement, now 40,000 strong, is synonymous with its founder, Reshma Saujani, who is the de facto voice in favor of closing the gender gap in coding. The book features friendly illustrations and an extremely approachable, empowering tone that gives girls the basics of programming as well as the tools and confidence to think of themselves as coders.
Part of the larger Girls Who Code series, The Friendship Code is the first of 13 books slated to tell great stories about girls, computer science, and coding. In this book — which has been likened to The Baby-Sitters Club, but for the computing set — a girl named Lucy learns the ins and out of friendship as well as coding, all in an after school coding club.
Other books in the series include Team BFF: Race to the Finish!, about what happens to a group of girls in coding club when they attempt to join their first hack-a-thon, and Lights, Music, Code!, which follows what happens when an old friend lures a girl away from her coding club.
For those who are more interested in doing than reading, there’s also Crack the Code!, a middle grade activity book that exposes all the ways in which coding is part of everyday life, and Code It! Create It!, an interactive journal meant to spark a girl’s digital imagination.
In tandem with the push for gender parity in the world of coding is an effort to make it more diverse. The Kickstarter-funded middle grade book, Sasha Savvy Loves to Code, aims to move the needle on both fronts. Its author, Sasha Ariel Alston, an African American Information Systems student at New York’s Pace University, wrote the semi-autographical book about an all-girls coding camp to challenge the stereotypes in STEM — and to help women of color like herself.
Set, like many of the other books of this genre, against the backdrop of coding camp, Girl Code is the story of two teen girls who create a viral video game and become famous — except this story isn’t fiction.
Andrea “Andy” Gonzales and Sophie Houser were two high school students from New York City when they met at a Girls Who Code summer camp. Together, they developed “Tampon Run,” a video game that aims to tackle the stigma around menstruation, which went viral.
As the pair told the site Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, “Our experiences with ‘Tampon Run’ have been hugely empowering. We’ve learned that even though we’re just two girls, we can reach and affect people globally. We have power and agency because we have ideas and a voice, and through coding we have the ability to reach millions of people worldwide in a nanosecond thanks to the Internet.”
From a former Facebook engineer, Lauren Ipsum has been described as an Alice in Wonderland introduction to the world of computer science. The main character, Lauren, gets lost in “Userland” and must use computer science-style reasoning and logic to find her way home. While the story itself is fantastical, there’s a section, called “The Field Guide to Userland,” where the concepts are presented realistically. Says Sheryl Sandberg, it “captures the spirit of problem-solving and ignites readers’ imaginations."
The spirit of problem solving is at the core of coding — and of some of the best literature. So it’s no surprise that this sub-genre is off and running. “I have seen girls tackle every single big problem from cancer to lead poisoning to climate change to homelessness to bullying in schools,” Saujani told CNN, “There is literally no problem that we can’t solve.”
What other books would you add to this list? Share with us in the comments below.