05 June 2014
This week, Computer Coding for Kids from Dorling Kindersley was published. I was part of the editorial team that worked on this title (that's me on the right!), which introduces children to programming in Scratch and Python, as well as to some of the fundamental ideas in computer science.
Although I've written fiction for children in the past (as yet unpublished), this was my first non-fiction book for children. It was a great experience working with Dorling Kindersley. I came on board after the concepts for the spreads had been defined and the pages designed. I was sent each two-page spread as a PDF, together with a brief outlining what needed to be conveyed on the page. The task then was to write the text to fit the design as closely as possible, sometimes writing for captions as small as 8 words. I always try to write lean copy, but this required a laser-focus. After this book, I returned to another project I was working on and was immediately able to spot editing opportunities I hadn't seen before. That surprised me because I thought the copy was already pretty tight there, but clearly working on Computer Coding for Kids had sharpened my editing skills!
I'm particularly pleased to have worked on this project, because I remember how much I loved learning to program when I was a child, and this book will help today's children to discover that joy. After learning Logo at school, I taught myself BASIC by watching Me & My Micro on the TV and reading books about programming that were mostly aimed at children. Back then, books were often made up of program listings to type in, accompanied by wonderful fantasy art that would help convince you the letters you were moving around were robots or monsters (see photo below). Obviously, the graphics capabilities of our computers have improved since the 80s, but the publishing industry has also learned a lot about education. Coding for Kids uses pixel art-style illustrations to call attention to important aspects of the programs, and breaks the programs and concepts down into bite-size chunks. Whereas the illustrations in the past were purely about decoration around the content, Computer Coding for Kids integrates the images with the content and uses them to help get the message across.
Computer Coding for Kids by Carol Vorderman is on sale now. You can order it from Amazon.co.uk (in the UK) or Amazon.com (in the US). If you use those links for ordering, I get a small commission (thank you!) which helps to subsidise the free resources on this website. I believe the book is going to be translated widely so I'll add new versions to my shop page for the book when I discover them.
For more information on the book, including sample spreads and bonus resources to help you explore the projects in it, see my Computer Coding for Kids page. You might also be interested in my books Scratch Programming in Easy Steps and Raspberry Pi For Dummies.
And to answer the most frequently asked question about this project, I didn't get to meet Carol Vorderman, unfortunately!