Programming Books

Working through a book can help parents learn programming with their kids or kids learn on their own.

Paper bound books might appear old school for software programming. However, most programmers use books to look up code snippets and confirm how a language works. Here are a number of programming books reviewed in the magazine in the past two years.

Automate the Boring Stuff with Python

If you already know Python, this book probably is not written for you. Instead, the book is written for average non-technical people who want to learn how to free themselves from mundane computer tasks. The Python code is not optimized, for example. The book also teaches only enough Python to understand how the code works. It’s up to readers to work through the basic lessons at the start of the book then pick through the rest of the book to find then code time-saving tasks.

This book also works great for easily bored kids interested in software and technology. It’s possible for a bright kid to think up an application — email me final scores for games my favorite team plays — then work through this book to write the code and build their application.

Teach Your Kids to Code

No Starch Press has published a book to help parents teach their kids to code. As their subtitle says, it’s a parent-friendly guide to Python programming. It also happens to be an excellent guide to learn Python if you’re single, elderly, a Martian, and otherwise don’t fit the parent plus child model.

The book begins by making an important point: people shouldn’t learn to code simply to become programmers. Learning how programming languages work, having a little fun making your computer do things, can expose you to how technology works in our daily lives. Learning to code helps people become active consumers, and in many cases, creators of technology, instead of passive consumers of technology.

Lauren Ipsum

No Starch Press has re-issued a wonderful book, Lauren Ipsum, which explains computer science concepts in a fun and often wacky way similar to Alice in Wonderland. Teachers, parents, and kids will have to stop and re-read the text to realize they’ve learned a key concept used in computer science and computing. The story is engages you on its own terms. This version also includes many whimsical illustrations by Miran Lipova?a.

Super Scratch Programming Adventure

This book explores the creative potential of Scratch. If you don’t know, Scratch is a programming language for kids with two major goals, teach kids about programming AND give kids a way to explore their creative side, reason, and work together with others. This book captures both parts of Scratch. The book mixes comics with tons of screenshots to help build different games. It’s easy to see how kids could tweak the instructions to explore and make the games more personal and fun. The back of the book lists online resources, too.

Python for Kids

Why do gorillas have big nostrils? This book gives you the answer as it teaches Python in a friendly way. I found the book easy-going with the right mix of high and low level details. For example, tuples are not my idea of a kid-friendly topic but the book makes the concept easy to understand and easy to demonstrate. There are tons of examples. And the book includes lots of details about how to work with the many useful Python modules, including modules to create games.

JavaScript for Kids

Computers are dumb. They do only what you tell them. This book teaches kids how to use JavaScript to tell computers what to do, from drawing kittens to making games. It starts with a neat trick: you can code JavaScript in any Chrome web browser. That makes it easy for anyone to work through JavaScript code, from simple to more complicated. Kids familiar with sprites in Scratch will find the JavaScript Canvas familiar. This book is perfect for kids and anyone who wants to graduate from Scratch to a professional language like JavaScript.

The resources section at the back of this book describes all the different ways to expand what you learn in the book. It’s worth the price of the book. Turns out JavaScript can be used not only with web pages. It can be used to run a web server, robots, audio, and many other kinds of projects.

Learn More

Automate the Boring Stuff with Python

Teach Your Kids to Code

Lauren Ipsum

Super Scratch Programming Adventure

Python for Kids

JavaScript for Kids


  • Tim Slavin

    Tim is an award-winning writer and technologist who enjoys teaching tech to non-technical people. He has many years experience with web sites and applications in business, technical, and creative roles. He and his wife have two kids, now teenagers, who are mad about video games.

Also In The October 2015 Issue

October 2015 Issue: Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) connects dumb devices like refrigerators to the internet and uses software to connect them to our daily lives.

There are many operating systems for internet of things devices, from existing software used to control electronic boards to efforts by Google and Apple.

Disney Infinity 3.0, Rocket League, and Super Mario Maker are three fun video games to consider for the 2015 holiday season

You can learn a little software programming and have lots of fun with any number of coding apps available for your phone or tablet computer.

Operating system software is a key part of all computers. But what are they and how do they work?

Learning how to make kittens with JavaScript is a great way to learn how to use the free Chrome web browser to practice and learn JavaScript.

Working through a book can help parents learn programming with their kids or kids learn on their own.

Board games and card games are some of the best ways to learn about programming. You don't need a computer. Play as a family or group.

These robots also can be programmed to move around rooms, one way for kids to learn programming.

Six women were hired to use their math skills to program the ENIAC computer. They called themselves The First Programmers Club.

Nicky is a Linguistics major who learned coding skills to further her research. She's also finished a PhD, won a few big awards, and co-founded Grok Learning.

Two women created an innovative online service to teach teenage girls how to code by using video.

The new Rust programming language is designed to solve problems with operating systems and fix issues with C and other languages.

Data can become alive and pose questions as well as reveal answers to questions we have.

Links from the bottom of all the articles in this issue, collected in one place for you to print, share, or bookmark.

DRY is an acronym for Don't Repeat Yourself. It's a critical programming concept and skill to learn.

Interesting news stories about computer science, software programming, and technology for August and September 2015.

CoderDojo is a free after school club for kids ages 7-17 where kids, parents, mentors, and others play with technology and learn to code.

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