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Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani and Sarah Hutt, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi, 162 pp, RL: Middle School

It rankles me when I see things marketed specifically to girls. Mostly because I am not the kind of girl those stereotypically "girl" things appeal to and neither is my daughter. And, probably, neither are millions of girls. But, the reality is that sometimes you need to use shorthand or symbols or certain colors to get a message across, to market an idea. And messages and ideas can be gender specific, as I learned when I read the introduction to Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani, founder of girls who code. While running for congress in 2010, Saujani visited many public schools and noticed that, in every computer lab, there were, "dozens of boys learning to code and training to be tech innovators. BUT THERE WERE BARELY ANY GIRLS!" Then she throws out this disturbing statistic: "By 2020, there will be 1.4 million open jobs in computing. These jobs are some of the country's highest-paying and fastest-growing career paths. BUT GIRLS ARE ON TRACK TO FILL JUST 4% OF THEM. If this were a pie chart, that wouldn't even qualify as a slice!" Clearly, this is a gender specific issue and marketing to girls is the way to go. In her introduction to The Friendship Code, the first book in the Girls Who Code fiction series, Saujani also said something simple but powerful, something that is going to shape all my interactions with my students moving forward, "You can't be what you can't see." It's obvious, I know, but it's a great organizing principle in this age of demanding diversity in kid's books. It's a given today that picture books will depict women driving garbage trucks or operating construction cranes or piloting commercial aircraft and, as computer science becomes a large part of our job market, economy and every day lives, girls need to see girls and women learning and working in these fields in the books they read and the media they consume - especially since women are the majority consumers of both products and social media. As notes, "There is a clear disconnect between the computer science industry and the message girls receive about their ability to succeed in tech organizations. . . Two-thirds of elementary aged children indicate an interest in science; however, as they enter middle school, the percentage of interested girls falls dramatically." You can find other fascinating facts and excellent resources at this website and at girls who code
. And, if you are the parent of a girl or work with girls, I definitely recommend you watch Reshma Saujani's TED Talk,"target="_blank">Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection.

Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World has two missions: to show readers that coding is something that they can do and to show them how coding is relevant to their lives and interests. And, of course, throughout the whole book, giving readers the chance to see what they can be. Along with the history of the computer, readers are introduced to women who shaped the history of the computer and computational thinking. Lots of illustrations, fact boxes and even graphic novel pages with panels make the information more readily understandable for young (and old) readers. And, there is constant encouragement to take risks, make mistakes and persevere. As Saujani says in her TED Talk, coding is an endless process of trial and error. As Danielle Feinberg, director of photography for lighting at Pixar says of writing code with a bug that would create mist in the forest for the movie Brave and discovering a cool new effect, "if the computer hadn't barfed on the code to create that image," I would never have seen how cool the forest looked in silhouette. Inspiration can come from anywhere, successes and failures.
Chapters are organized starting with programming logic and theory, regardless of what language you ultimately program with then moves on to programming applications and all the fun you can have, from video games to digital art and design to robots, then on to websites, mobile apps and online security. Real Girls Who Code, chosen from the 40,000 girls who have participated in Saujani's program, also share experiences and projects as well. Resources at the end of the book give readers a direction for where to head next and how to start your own projects. There is also a glossary and an index.

Source: Review Copy


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