Coding for Kids

Author: Mike McGrath
Publisher: In Easy Steps
Date: February 2019
Pages: 192
ISBN: 978-1840788396
Print: 1840788399
Kindle: B07NVQXYCG
Audience: Kids wanting to code
Rating: 4
Reviewer: Ian Elliot
There are a lot of books for getting kids started on computer programming - why this one?

Unlike many other books that are designed to start young people off on the important and enjoyable topic of programming, this book starts off with non-declarative code - i.e. HTML or web design, if you like. This avoids some of the more difficult aspects of programming until later when JavaScript is introduced as the procedural language. This is a good idea but it reduces the amount of space a slim book can spend on the really difficult parts of the task of making the transition from non-programmer to programmer. While the cover flash sates "Age 8 +", I think the approach is more suitable for an older age group (12 +) and specifically kids who have an enthusiasm for creating web pages that do something.

The first four chapters introduce HTML and make use of a simple text editor. Personally I would prefer to use an IDE like NetBeans, but I agree that this needs more complex setting up. After a brief introduction to how the web works, we move on to creating some simple contents - a div used as a box, some text, images and links. If the reader is of the mindset that needs to understand everything then there might be a problem. Everything is explained in simple terms, but by its very nature, there isn't a logic that determines why HTML it is like it is - mostly it's like it is because it just has to be that way to work. For example, including a statement that the text is coded in UTF 8 raises the question of what other codings there might be and to answer this would take us far too far into the mess that is encodings.

As long as the reader is willing to accept the simple, but necessarily shallow, explanations of why everything is there then there should be no problem. From here we move on to lists and tables, which are essential but not really inspiring.  The final chapter of this section is on reacting to clicks and basically it is about using the JavaScript alert function as the onclick event handler of a range of HTML elements. This is fun and I think it should come earlier and lead on directly to yet more JavaScript. Instead the next chapter is on CSS, which is easy enough to understand.

 

Chapter 6 is where we really get started with programming. Personally I'd prefer to have a simpler way of dealing with the need to create a UI and have reached programming much sooner, but if you want to create a web page this is the order things need to be done. The main problem with this part of the book is the speed of delivery. There is a lot to get through in a few pages - if you can stand the pace it's very good, however. Chapter 6 is a basic introduction to data types and expressions. Chapter 7 presents conditionals, loops and functions. As long as you are a reasonably quick study you should get it as it is clearly explained.  Chapter 8 introduces the use of built-in functions, which arguably is what most of programming is about. Chapter 9 brings us back to the HTML via the DOM which is how JavaScript interacts with its UI. Finally we have chapter 10 which attempts to put it all together in the creation of a simple web game.

Conclusion 

This is a well-written and well-produced book. If you are the right reader then it will do its job and repay the time and effort you put into reading it. To be the right reader you need to want to make web apps and be prepared to do some work. After you finish the book, if you progress, you will discover that there are easier ways of creating the web page UI than hand-coding HTML/CSS and you will have to find out about web servers and how to get your page on the public web, but that is another story and only emphasizes how far you still have to travel.


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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 03 December 2019 )