Review: The Official Scratchjr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to Code

The Official Scratchjr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to CodeThe Official Scratchjr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to Code by Marina Umaschi Bers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many of you may be familiar with Scratch if you’ve got kids about 15 or so years old or younger. It’s the hot language for the elementary and (in some places) middle school set to teach programming. It’s particularly great for the younger kids because programming takes place using blocks that slot into each other. This allows for the kids not to have to worry about spelling or curly braces or semicolons. You just plug blocks into each other and code. I scoffed at it at first until I saw the complex programs kids can create with Scratch. Scratch Jr is almost exactly the same thing, except it’s for younger kids and it’s a tablet program.

I went through this book with my five year old twins. My son was a bit too impatient and bounced out halfway through. My daughter stuck with it and make it all the way through the final big project at the end. The book is written as if speaking to the children, but each chapter has a “for grownups” section that gives some advice for how to take the chapter’s lessons a bit further. It seems targeted at educators, but shouldn’t be any trouble for parents to use (as I did) as long as you aren’t someone for whom technology seems to be bewildering. There are TONS of images showing you exactly what to do for the base program. From there it should be easy to extrapolate for the challenge programs. The authors have done an amazing job here and I can’t think how they could have done any better.

As I said in a review for another programming book for kids (and on my blog) I believe I tried to get my oldest into programming the wrong way – with a kids book on Python programming. While Python is an extremely easy language to learn, it was a little too much to learn programming concepts at the same time as learning to type and specific syntax. If you have a child in your life who’s about 5-7 years old, this book is a perfect introduction into programming. Almost everyone has a tablet nowadays, so it even works if the family doesn’t have a desktop or laptop computer. If they really enjoy it, feel free to graduate the kid to Scratch. (You can program it online or download offline programs if you have an inconsistent Internet connection) Every kid is different (I began my programming journey when I was 8 (decades ago) with BASIC), but I would wait to introduce them to Python or Ruby until they’re 11 or so.

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