Bite-Size Python, by April Speight
My Review: ★★★★★
One of the most difficult things about teaching kids to code is finding the perfect balance between making the material educational and making it fun and appealing to kids. That’s what’s so special about Bite-Size Python, by April Speight.
This book is written to teach kids the basics of coding. It does not require any prior knowledge. A child who picks up this book will be walked through everything they need: from installing Python and related tools, to basic programming concepts, to some engaging activities to exercise what they’ve learned. No adult help or supervision should be required. The lessons are just the right level of detail to stay brief yet informative. The book is perfect for students in the 9-12 year age range.
The practice exercises are very high-quality. They involve subjects that should be relevant and engaging for a wide variety of young learners. They’re put into a relatable context: you want to play Mad Libs with your friends; Mariah is trying to randomly pick a green marble out of the bag; kids need to be split randomly into two teams so they can play kickball. These contexts can help kids see the sorts of problems that coding can help them solve, which is important. Not every kid will love coding at first, but every kid will see reasons to use coding to solve these problems. Each lesson simply and clearly demonstrates why the software constructs – arrays, loops, functions, etc. – exist and how they help you achieve your goals.
Another important feature of this book is the inclusivity it shows. The internal artwork features kids of different races, genders, and abilities. The book does not talk down to kids or exaggerate how cool and fun coding can be. It’s a straightforward example of why and how you can learn to code.
The author, April Speight, is a perfect source of information for this book. She didn’t start out as a software engineer, but found a love for it after college and transitioned into a role as a software evangelist, speaker and teacher. Her path into software is reflected in this book as a plain-spoken approach that teaches what you need to know without being boring. She doesn’t shove coding at the reader, yet shares a love of what coding can help you accomplish. You can learn more about the author at vogueandcode.com.