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Kids Who Code:
Terrific Books That Introduce Programming to Children

by Tom Burns

When I was a kid I thought we’d all be living on the moon by 2016, so the fact that I still don’t even have one robot servant is pretty disappointing. However, every time I start thinking the 21st century doesn’t feel enough like the future, I remind myself that my nine-year-old daughter takes LEGO Robotics programming classes at her elementary school, and suddenly it feels like maybe hoverboards aren’t all that far away.

All over the world, kids as young as five and six are learning how to write their own software code, which is AMAZING. Some are self-taught and some are learning it in computer science courses at school, but regardless of how they’re introduced to it, programming code has become something children are interested in, and that’s very, very cool. And who can blame them? What kid wouldn’t want to learn how to make their own video game, or design their own Minecraft mod? Coding has become THE cool new language that kids are dying to learn. (Take that, Latin!)

So, if you think your game-loving youngster might also love learning how to make their own games or code their own programs, here are some wonderful books that introduce kids to the basics of coding, programming, and writing their own software. You can thank us later when they grow up to become technology billionaires.

  • HTML for Babies

    by John C. Vanden-Heuvel, Sr.

    The game designers of tomorrow have to start somewhere, right? So, why not get your baby chewing on a board book that may actually teach them a thing or two about coding syntax? This adorably goofy primer will introduce your young reader to the very, very basics of HTML markup code — open tags, close tags, etc. There’s even a follow-up board book, CSS for Babies, which will also let your toddler geek out about cascading style sheets!

  • Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding

    by Linda Liukas

    Originally launched as a Kickstarter project, which earned more than $380,000, this lighthearted, accessible introduction to the concepts behind coding reads more like a storybook than a computer programming guide. It follows an imaginative girl named Ruby who learns lessons about pattern recognition, computational thinking, and higher-level concepts vital to understanding coding. There are also several tie-in apps, online games, and additional information that will help your young Ruby fan learn more about taking a fantastic voyage into the wild world of writing software.

  • Coding Games in Scratch

    by Jon Woodcock

    The subtitle of this engaging DK instructional book is “A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games,” and it definitely delivers what it promises. The book offers a compelling visual walk-through of using Scratch — a free programming language that many schools are using to expose students to the basics of coding — to create several different kinds of basic games. Your kids will love the book’s Minecraft-esque graphic design, and you’ll love how it makes Scratch into something even parents can understand. If your kid wants to stop reading about code and actually make something, this is the book for them.

  • Coding for Beginners Using Scratch
    Lift-the-Flap Computers and Coding

    by Usborne Publishing

    In the 1980s, Usborne Publishing released a series of popular programming books for kids who wanted to learn how to code their own computer games — iconic titles like Introduction to Machine Code for Beginners (sounds fun, eh?). Earlier this year, Usborne released free PDFs of their classic ‘80s programming books to help promote their new series that aims to teach 21st-century kids how to code in Scratch. Two of their first titles are Coding for Beginners Using Scratch and Lift-the-Flap Computers and Coding, and both titles do an admirable job of introducing the basics of Scratch coding to your picture-book-loving youngster.

  • Coding Projects in Scratch

    by Jon Woodcock

    Another title from astrophysicist Jon Woodcock, Coding Projects in Scratch offers 18 creative projects, all with step-by-step instructions that help kids learn essential coding basics. What kinds of stuff can they make? They'll learn how to code their own characters, animations, sound effects, and more. Today they're coding a dinosaur dance party, tomorrow ... who knows?

  • Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming

    by Jason R. Briggs

    Scratch isn’t the only programming language kids are experimenting with these days. Python is another popular one, but most higher-level Python guides are about as exciting as tax-code documentation. Fortunately, this book really bends over backwards to make its information digestible and visually appealing to nervous new Python users. Briggs keeps the tone irreverent throughout, finding intriguing ways to keep kids’ interest while talking about software coding concepts. A very well-executed guide to something very complex!

  • DK Coding Workbooks

    by DK

    Does your kid like getting their hands dirty rather than just following along in a book? If that’s the case and they have an interest in coding, you might want to try one of DK’s awesome series of interactive coding workbooks. Each one offers a collection of exercises and projects designed to get kids using the concepts they’re learning, reinforcing key coding concepts in a very hands-on way. These make great companion material for titles like Jon Woodcock’s Coding Games in Scratch. Check out the workbooks in the series, including Computer Coding, Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook, and Coding in Scratch: Projects Workbook.

Is your kid a master coder? Can they make Minecraft do whatever they want? If they picked up any of their mad coding skills from a book or online resource, let us know in the comments below.

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