By Rachel Stafler
JON WOODCOCK PLAYED his
first computer game at the age of 8.
The car-racing challenge had no
graphics, just text, but he was
hooked. Growing up at a time when
computer users needed to painstakingly create their own tools and
games, Woodcock spent the next
few years developing programs
with his father, an engineer.
Even though he now has a degree in
physics from the University of Oxford and a
Ph.D. in computational astrophysics from the
University of London, Woodcock’s love for
computer games has stayed with him. When
he became a father himself, he introduced his
kids to his passion for programing and volunteered to teach a code club at their elementary
school twice a week, where an even mix of
girls and boys participated. Using Scratch, a
free basic programing language and online
community for children developed by the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he
taught the kids to create their own interactive
games and share them with children around
However, he noticed that there were few
books on the market to teach kids basic cod-
ing skills. After writing several science books
for DK, he heard that the company
was looking into publishing books
on coding for children. He
approached an editor with his ideas
for coding books that kids would
enjoy reading, and was commis-
sioned to write them.
The books introduce children
to the basics of coding in Scratch
and are divided into fun projects.
“Scratch is brilliant for kids just starting
out on the computer,” says Woodcock, who
lives in Nottingham, England. “It’s a safe place
to explore and experiment. You can’t break
anything, and I’ve seen many parents embrace
it, creating games for themselves when their
kids aren’t busy with the computer. Scratch is
not that different than any other program-
ming language and uses the same concepts, so
it provides kids with a wonderful foundation.”
In a world where computers are incorpo-
rated into everything from phones to basic
household items, familiarity with coding is
essential, Woodcock tells The Connection.
Though the books were written for kids
to use on their own, he encourages parents to
get involved and create programs together
with their kids.
“Learning to program computers is an
empowering activity,” says Woodcock, who
spends between six months and a year writing
the books. “Giving kids the ability to control
and create is a powerful thing. We wrote these
books with the goal of making them progressive and engaging, while enabling kids to
absorb the important concepts they will need
to become independent coders.” C
Rachel Stafler is a London-based writer.
The Costco Connection
Computer Coding, Coding in Scratch
Workbook and Coding in Scratch: Games
Workbooks (Item #1050954, available now)
are available in most Costco warehouses.
Learning to code
arts & entertainment
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here for a demonstration of how
Scratch works. (See page 15 for details.)
PARENTS, WOULD YOU like to turn trips
to the store into an educational and fun
experience for your little ones? As you make
your way through the store, have your child
help the I Can Read! characters find the
objects on your shopping list that they are
Fancy Nancy is on the surprise-party
refreshments committee and she’s baking
cupcakes! Can you help her find sugar?
Frances, from Bread and Jam for Frances,
loves bread and jam. In fact, she’s eaten all
the strawberry jam. Can you help her find
� Strawberry jam
Clark the Shark has run into some tooth trouble. Can you help him find a new toothbrush?
When Amelia Bedelia goes to her first
sleepover, she makes sure to tuck a flashlight
in her backpack. Can you find a flashlight?
Pete the Cat is going scuba diving. He’ll
need a towel when he gets out of the water.
Can you find a towel for Pete?
Superman’s alter ego is Clark Kent, the mild-mannered newspaper reporter. Find the perfect pair of glasses to complete his disguise.
The Costco Connection
Six-packs of the popular I Can Read! books
(Item #658695, available now), featuring Pete the Cat, Fancy Nancy, Frances,
Superman and other characters, are available at most Costco warehouses.
And, if this scavenger hunt whets your
appetite for locating hidden gems, see the
story on geocaching on page 43.
I Can Read!