As we are in the middle of Computer Science Education Week, what better time to look at recent kids' books about coding? As you may already know, coding is instructing a computer to take an action in a way it will understand and follow.
"Secret Coders," written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Mike Holmes, is a graphic novel series that follows three friends as they learn a largely forgotten computer language and try to save the world from a crazed computer genius. The fourth book, "Robots & Repeats," was published in October, and the next one will be released in March.
In the story so far, three students attending a strange private school have solved some of the school's mysteries by learning how to code. Readers are encouraged to work through the concepts, too.
Yang told KidsPost that he picked Logo as the series's computer language for several reasons. It was the first one he learned, but he was also fascinated by the people who developed it and by the way Logo "sits between the world of coding and the world of art," Yang said. "And the fact that it's sort of a forgotten language lends to the mystery of it."
Yang says he named the main character "Hopper" as a tribute to Grace Murray Hopper, one of the key figures in the history of computer science. She popularized "bug" as a term for a programming glitch and created the first compiler. A compiler is a program that translates words and numbers into the two-symbol language that a computer understands.
Early in his research for the series, Yang realized that "coding had been considered a women's profession. People used to think the hardware of the computer was most important. They kind of dismissed software and let women work on that. Now we know different, but, as a result, a lot of the ideas that we think of as computer science were created by women like Grace Hopper."
National Basketball Association player Chris Bosh inspired Yang to create Eni, Hopper's best friend. "He's someone who straddles the world of athletics and the world of academics," the author said.
Yang taught high school computer science for 18 years, and he saw how kids were labeled as either an athlete or a nerd. Bosh and Eni aren't easy to label. They have a wide variety of interests.
With the "Secret Coders" series, Yang said he hopes readers feel the same excitement about computer programming that he does. "Coding sometimes feels like magic."
Reshma Saujani has written a new book called "Girls Who Code" for age 10 and older. It shows how coding can be fun and useful. She explains concepts and terminology in a clear, straightforward way. In addition to saluting women who made important breakthroughs in computer science, Saujani includes interviews with girls who are working on websites and apps, as well as women who are specialists in such fields as robotics, movie animation and video-game development.
You can celebrate Computer Science Education Week (December 4-10) by taking part in a coding class. More than 100,000 workshops worldwide have been planned to promote an "Hour of Code" for students everywhere. Visit hourofcode.com/us/learn for a video tutorial about Hour of Code (available in 45 languages) and information on events near you.