Here’s what I know about computers and coding:
Ok, it’s a short list. It’s also not quite true, of course; I’m typing on one right now. But basically, I’m excited to teach my kids about computers and coding not only for their benefit, but also because I’d like to know more myself and I’m basically starting at a kindergarten level. There aren’t a ton of books about coding written at that level (though probably more than you might expect), but we’ve found one that the whole family loves: Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding
First impressions: The book is fun and attractive to look at. It is colorful without being glaring primary colors. That is what first drew me to it. I like that the main character is a girl, but it is not a “girl’s book”, if there is such a thing.
The focus of the book is on ways of thinking that pertain to computers and coding, not on sitting down to a computer and getting to work. As such, you follow Ruby’s story through a series of several short chapters, each of which has several exercises (or games, as we like to call them.) I had a moment of angst when I first looked through the book and could not find the promised activities, thinking they would come right after the chapter. “How can I teach my kids anything about coding when I can’t even figure out to operate a book?”, I moaned to myself; then I found them in the back of the book. I like this, now that I know what’s going on. The story can stand on it’s own this way, if you want it to. However, we do the exercises, typically reading one chapter and then doing an activity or two each day until it’s time for the next chapter.
Despite the emphasis on thought processes, several coding terms are introduced throughout, such as boolean, data, loops, algorithm, and more. Check the toolbox sections for these.
The exercises look like games and my kids enjoy them like games, yet it’s clear what they are trying to teach. For example, the first exercise involves writing very detailed instructions, the way you would need to with a computer program, and then trying to follow them step-by-step. I remember doing this same activity in third grade with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My teacher put the whole jar of peanut butter between two slices of bread because we hadn’t told her to take the lid off, insert a knife, etc. All of the articles are similarly memorable, and many include getting up and performing a task, which I try hard to include alongside our more sedentary academics.
My almost seven-year-old has been able to do most of the activities and my young five-year-old can do about 75%. I think we will go through it again next year, and since they always ask for Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding at school time, I don’t think I’ll meet much complaint. I could say more, but I think the best recommendation comes from my kids. Here’s what they said when I asked why they like it:
“Because it has things that are really fun.” (The activities.)
“Because she has lots of friends that are my favorite animals and I like the boys name and I like Ruby. I like the characters, you should say.”
There you have it, a recommendation for both the story line and the exercises! For even more fun, check out helloruby.com.
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