Over the years, I’ve read many thousands of books, some good and some not so good. Jason Briggs’ book Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction To Programming falls into the very exclusive category of books that I wish I had written. The book is written in a clear, understandable, non-threatening style that almost anyone should be able to follow. It includes cute pictures and enough humor to stay interesting for both kids and adults without becoming cloying. It covers everything a beginner needs to know to get started in Python, starting with how to download and install Python itself (for free). It then explains how to write programs, use variables of different types, use loops and ranges, make lists and tuples, create classes and objects, and of course drive a turtle.
Everything a beginner needs is there, so rather than summarizing the table of contents, I want to discuss a more important issue: who should read this book and how. I would recommend this book to any beginner, but that doesn’t mean everyone is ready to learn to program on his or her own. Every programming book covers some basics before it can show you how to do anything really fun. (You need to eat your vegetables before you can have dessert!) Some particularly younger readers may have trouble pushing through the first few chapters before reaching more interesting material.
For those who are less self-motivated, I recommend working with a partner. For example, a parent/child or grandparent/grandchild pair would be awesome! You might try taking turns teaching the chapters. “I’ll read ahead and teach you this chapter. Then you can do the same for the next one.” Working as a team would give you some quality non-screen time together and would lay the foundation for more serious programming later.
As for what age is appropriate for this kind of book, that depends entirely on those involved. I’ve known seven-year-olds who would have no trouble reading this book. Unfortunately, I’ve also known adults so thoroughly convinced that they could never learn to program a computer that they wouldn’t make it past the table of contents. (A parent/child team might work very well for that person.)
If you haven’t programmed before and want to give it a try, I highly recommend this book. If you have one or more special kids in your life who you think might be interested in programming, make it a group project. I can promise that it’ll be a lot of fun and, if you’re not careful, you’ll probably end up learning to program, too.
For information about this book at Amazon, click here.