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BOOK REVIEW: My First Coding Book by Kiki Prottsman, illustrated by Molly Lattin

BOOK REVIEW: My First Coding Book by Kiki Prottsman, illustrated by Molly Lattin

Dorling Kindersley Ltd
July 2017
Hardcover, $29.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Children & Teenagers/Science & Technology for Children & Teenagers

7.5/10

Computers and technology have changed our lives and things continue to evolve. Children born today will never know a world without the internet and computers, so it doesn’t seem too strange to try and expose them to these things at an early age because this should benefit and encourage them in the long run. My First Coding Book is a pop-up board book, which is designed for six and seven year olds. It uses colourful illustrations, puzzles, games and other information including some basic concepts from computer programming to teach skills that are becoming increasingly more important.

Coding is about more than just telling a computer what to do. To be a super coder you need to be determined to succeed, creative and good at working in a team.

This book is written by Kiki Prottsman an Education Program Manager at Code.org and a former computer science instructor at the University of Oregon. My First Coding Book is divided into a series of different page spreads that include how to:

  • Deconstruct or break a problem down
  • Build things back up through making a program
  • Find bugs
  • Look for patterns
  • Make choices based on different conditions
  • Plan ahead
  • Keep a score or tally

Two little pixelated “icons” appear on every page. They are used to describe “code words” or words that are programming terminology for those in the business. They offer things like:

An algorithm is a set of instructions for performing a task, a bit like a recipe. These instructions have to be very clear and simple, or the whole thing won’t work.

This book is fun and uses a maze to reinforce the idea of planning ahead to avoid going the wrong way and in order to follow the correct sequence/ordered set of steps. The different stages involved in taking a dog to the park is used to demonstrate loops where you can continue playing with the pet until such time as the dog is tired, meaning you should take it home. The idea of building a human-like robot demonstrates how instructions need to be specific otherwise you can wind up with a robot that has arms, legs and a head attached in the wrong spots.

Coders write programs that tell a computer what to do. When coders find mistakes in their problems they call them bugs. These bugs might not crawl around, but they can cause a lot of trouble!

The text in this book tries to be simple enough for children to understand. It also introduces a lot of new words through those “icon” characters and in a separate glossary at the end. The activities are colourful, interesting and enjoyable enough to pique a child’s interest so this could be a good little guide to work through at home or in a classroom setting. It’s not a bad little tool and adults who haven’t coded before should find it straight-forward enough to grasp the logic and concepts.

One major downside of this book is that it’s a completely offline resource. This was a wasted opportunity because it could have come with a USB or links to some websites (including Code.org) or videos or additional examples where the child could have been a little more hands on. If there were accompanying electronic resources this would have made the experience a more authentic one.

My First Coding Book is a good resource which tackles some complex concepts and breaks them down into ideas that are easy-to-digest. This book features the building blocks of computer programming like sequences, algorithms, looping and conditions, and it presents it in a way that should be easy for a child to understand. It’s the kind of book that will allow kids, teachers and other adults to literally get with the program in more ways than one.

BOOK REVIEW: My First Coding Book by Kiki Prottsman, illustrated by Molly Lattin

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