Saturday, December 15, 2012

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Holiday Gift Idea: "Super Scratch Programming Adventure" Programming Guide for Kids

Although I am in IT and consider myself a tech nut, I have yet to get my mind around programming. I have always secretly wanted to teach myself to become a programmer but somehow always find a way to quit before I even start.

There are dozens of systems and resources to help you get started and some are even focused on kids. I am not embarrassed to say that I have tried at least one system geared towards kids for myself. When I learned about Super Scratch Programming Adventure by No Starch Press I was excited to introduce a system for my son who is the perfect age to get started into programming. It may be too late for me, but it is the perfect time for him!

The system is the book paired with a free and easily downloadable program called Scratch.  Once the free software is installed on your computer, starting to program is as easy as opening up the book and following along. The book is a cross between a comic book and a super fun and intuitive text book.

The real genius of Super Scratch is the method of keeping young minds interested and engaged. The book introduces a storyline and some endearing characters that need your help to progress through the story. You help Scratchy by creating a program through the Scratch software.  The book asks the reader to help by completing small tasks. Each small task is a component in a larger program. Your child thinks they are helping Scratchy through the story but they are actually learning the fundamentals of programming! What a great concept.

How did it work? Well, we have yet to finish all the way through the story, but so far it is a hit. Jake could not wait to get into the program and start helping Scratchy. The reading level and step by step instructions were (mostly) understandable by our nearly 9 year old son without assistance. With a parent nearby to help, I can see kids as young as 6 enjoying the Super Scratch Programming Adventure. Jake made it deep into the book before he needed any real assistance from me.

Super Scratch Programming Adventure will not create any programmers by itself, but what a wonderfully engaging and effective way to start a young person off on their programming journey. (And quite possibly a 42 year old as well!)

This book retails for $24.95 and can be found at most major book retailers.  It is currently selling on Amazon for just $14.33 with Free Super Saver Shipping.

Thank you to No Starch Press for providing a complimentary product sample for us to base this review upon.