Monday, November 13, 2017

Girls who code: Learn to code and change the world by Reshma Saujani, Sarah Hutt, and Jeff Stern; illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

Coding is a big buzzword in library circles right now. Week of code, coding programs for kids, etc. I've not much interest in the subject personally - I enjoyed logic courses long ago in my own high school studies and I'm willing to fiddle around with software until it does what it wants, but my general attitude towards technology is that I ignore it until I actually need something. Which is why I have a very, very old-style phone and two e-readers. Priorities!

I have a similar attitude towards my library programming. I've never been in favor of simply doing programs because they're the "in" thing. I look at our community, what's already offered by the schools, what resources people have and what they lack, and what the kids are interested in. In this case, I don't do much with coding or technology, especially not anything "educational." Our schools have extensive technology and maker lab equipment, far superior to anything I can put together, and with more qualified educators. Our middle school and high school also have robotics clubs, coding clubs, and there are nearby Girls Who Code clubs as well. A large number of members of the clubs, especially in middle school, are girls. So, I don't feel a need to recreate what another group is already doing well. What I DO want to do, is support the schools and their students in their interests. Which is why I bought this book!

Saujani beings by some of her own story, about how she got interested in coding, and some statistics about the barriers faced by girls going into coding. She explains why she wanted to found Girls Who Code and some of the cool things members have done. Then the book moves into the actual coding. The interesting thing is that this is not, per say, a "how to" book, although it does include activities and projects. It's more an explanation of how coding works, the logic and reasoning behind it, and how to get your mind into the right mindset to not be scared or unwilling to try coding. Saujani also talks a lot about working through problems and figuring out how to deal with bugs and roadblocks when coding as well as working with friends and choosing projects.

The book includes lots of interviews with real-life girls talking about the projects they've coded and brief biographies of famous women involved with coding and computers. There are also comic sections sprinkled throughout the book. Back matter includes a glossary and index. The book itself includes extensive references to websites and resources for young students to explore.

Verdict: This is a great introduction to coding as well as an encouragement to girls who feel daunted or scared of trying something new. It's explanations are simple and the narrative aspect of it will attract readers who think they "don't like math" or science. I've purchased one copy and it's checked out quite regularly, both to my girls who already code and those interested in starting, and I strongly recommend that all libraries have a copy for reference, whether or not you offer coding programs.

ISBN: 9780425287538; Published 2017 by Viking; Purchased for the library; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

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