6 Summer Reads That Will Teach You—and Your Students—How to Code


In the age of #CSforAll, there are hundreds of online resources to teach you and your students how to code. But is it possible to learn this digital skill through an analogue method?

For those of you that love the touch, smell, and feel of books, below is a list of recommended reads to get you started with coding. All but the first would also be great for students to use in class or at home; I’ve sorted the list by grade level.

1. The Official ScratchJr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to Code, by Marina Umaschi Bers and Mitchel Resnick, is a great place to start if you plan on using ScratchJr with children in grades PreK - 2. This guide gives an in depth description of the tool. The authors are the creators of ScratchJr and have a clear way of explaining how it should be used with young pupils. Topics include: tool explanation, animations, stories, and game creation. Each project also includes suggested connections to math and literacy standards. I highly recommend this book to all early childhood educators getting started with coding in their classrooms.

2. Scratch Programming in Easy Steps, by Sean McManus, gives a brief introduction of how to create programs in Scratch and then gives instructions on creating many interesting projects such as drawing, music, game creation, data, hardware, and more. This is a great book for educators who are looking for fresh, new activities for their coding class. This book could also be used as a workbook for your 5th - 8th grade students.

3. Help Your Kids With Computer Coding, by Carol Vorderman, Dr. Jon Woodcock, Sean McManus, Craig Steele, Claire Quigley, and Daniel McCafferty, gives a broad overview of many topics related to computer programming. There are chapters devoted to Scratch, Python, computer hardware, and programming occupations. The book briefly touches on a range of areas of programming from the basics of binary, to flowchart creation, and even sorting algorithms. I highly recommend this book for introducing the world of computer science to adults and students in grade 5 and higher.

4. Learn to Program with Scratch: A Visual Introduction to Programming with Games, Art, Science, and Math, by Majed Marji, gives in depth explanations of all elements found in the Scratch programming tool. The book also aligns many of its projects to science and math education standards. Other projects include art and game themes. This book is superb for its intended audience of students in grade 7 and higher. Most of the project topics are too advanced for elementary grade classes (e.g. Simulating Ohm's Law), but it’s a terrific resource for middle or higher grade educators who are looking for great Scratch projects that align to other content areas.

5. Learn to Program with Minecraft, by Craig Richardson, takes the reader through the basics of modding (modifying the code to do cool things) Minecraft. It includes very fun projects and easy to understand instructions. As educators, you know that kids love playing Minecraft; you may not know that it isn’t difficult to make fun modifications to the game through coding. This book makes it easy for you and your middle and high school students to learn how to program in Python through very engaging Minecraft projects.

6Learn to Program with Small Basic: An Introduction to Programming with Games, Art, Science, and Math, by Majed Marji and Ed Price, skillfully introduces programming through the Small Basic language. This book is not only good for middle and high school students, but is a great starting point for adults. The lessons are focused on teaching programming concepts rather than just making projects. Even if you aren’t a beginner, this book is great to have as a reference. The chapter on using math in programs, for example, shows the code you would need to launch a cannon ball given the angle and initial speed.

Bonus: Secret Coders, by Gene Luen Yang, is a wildly popular graphic novel about a group of kids that find a secret coding school (think Harry Potter but replace magic with coding). This book is recommended for grade 5 and up, but you’ll have just as much fun reading it as your students will. If you plan on using this book in class, check out the Teacher’s Guide.

I hope these recommendations have piqued your interest in adding some coding books to your personal library or maybe even your classroom. What coding books have you enjoyed reading? Share in the Comments below.

Grant Smith helps districts implement CS for All initiatives with a focus on teacher training and curriculum development.

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