Thank you No Starch Press for sending us this book to review!
Teach Your Kids to Code is a book designed for parents and kids to work together and learn the Python programming language. The author, Dr. Bryson Payne has been teaching computer science to students of all ages from kindergarten to college age pupils at the University of North Georgia. There are ten chapters that will cover the basics of installing Python, pygame, and learning about graphics, variables, loops, conditions, animations and accepting user input.
Most of the heavy lifting is done by the Python libraries turtle and pygame. With turtle kids can learn to make programs that generate spirals and other neat shapes in various colors. After launching a turtle program or two you’ll quickly realize how it got its name as even an i7 desktop takes a few minutes to render the final product.
The coding itself is pretty straight forward and the book does an excellent job explaining what each function does and pieces it together bit by bit and combines it into a final program at the end. One important factor that my daughter and I both learned is that spacing/indenting is critical in Python. If a function is not properly indented, the program will simply not run and there will be no error code to assist you in the debugging process. Typos are relatively easy to catch with the syntax errors, but indentation, not so much. Fortunately, the source code and required media files are readily available on the book’s website.
The only other stumbling block we came across was installing the pygame library in Windows. We installed the latest version of Python in its 64-bit format. This worked fine until we needed to install the pygame library as the book’s obsolete version did not work. We were able to get it working by using a custom compiled version.
Despite those hiccups, my daughter and I learned a lot by going through this book together. While the typing was her least favorite part of the process, she was very excited to see and share the programs that she made. Her favorite programs include a text based Yahtzee, War, and a graphical Pong game that uses a smiley face as the ball. Teach Your kids to Code is an excellent learning tool for people of all ages that can be purchased digitally for less than $15 or in paperback for under twenty dollars on Amazon.
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