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How to Turn Your Grown-Up into a Robot and Other Coding Stories Review by Ta’Neisha Kemp

Jen Chiou
CodeSpeak Books
1 (320) 321-6888
800 Roosevelt
Irvine, CA 92620
http://codespeaklabs.com

CodeSpeak Books has created an easy, innovative way to introduce the concepts of coding to early elementary aged children. How to Turn Your Grown-Up into a Robot and Other Coding Stories is a silly, family fun, page turner that will teach your child the fundamentals of this skill.

This book is broken down into three levels with the first being geared towards ages 2-5 years old.  “Level 1: How to Turn Your Grown-Up into a Robot,” teaches about designing a robot, giving commands, and understanding how to adjust variables. To portray the concept of being a programmer you will need one older child or adult to read while another acts out the commands. For our homeschool, I read the story while our oldest acted out the commands for his siblings. We couldn’t stop laughing while we read this story! The preschoolers enjoyed turning their brother into a robot and learning how to code him. By the end of the story our 4 and 2-year-olds understood that coding is giving commands on the computer and they needed to be specific to ensure the robot understood. They also learned that variables are things that can change based off their preferences. We pretended to push buttons to adjust our robot’s face, dance styles, movements, and language.

After we read the first level three times we moved on to “Level 2: Let’s Play with ScratchJr Kitten!”  This section is all about learning the functionality of block code. The layout is similar to an application you might use on your phone, tablet, or Firestick. The children are given options to choose from and tap on the pictures as they decide on variables. As they tap through this section each decision adjusts the story. Your student will practice typing on a keyboard as well as changing the location and activities of the characters. Both of our younger children participated in this section of the book and liked creating fun for ScratchJr Kitten and his friends. You can also download the ScratchJr application onto your tablet and by using the computer code from this story you can recreate the playdate. Our children were able to work with the app with assistance. The activities worked perfectly on the Apple and Google based tablets; however, our smartphones were not compatible with the program.

In “Level 3: Do You Love Cookies?” your child learns to program code with syntax.  This section still has the cute and colorful illustrations seen throughout with the added feature of actual computer coding visuals.  These unique pictures allow your child to see the functions shown in the code while the action is happening. They also get to introduce new variables into the code, adjust the size of the items used, and incorporate codes for sound.  There is also information included within the book that can be used on a website to recreate this chapter’s activity. We read through this section with both of our younger children and they had fun tapping on the pictures and incorporating sounds into the code. Since the website activity was offered we did try it a few times with our middle child. He preferred to look rather than participate but he did call out the actions from the story. 

Finally, I’d like to mention the beautiful dedications, sponsor support, and letter to the parents included in the book.  It’s nice to hear inspiration from somebody that appreciates you using their product. I also enjoyed learning the history of the company and the family behind the name. Thanks to CodeSpeak Books I was able to successfully introduce this skill to our preschool children. How to Turn Your Grown-Up into a Robot and Other Coding Stories was loads of fun to use and has built my confidence in teaching this skill. Our younger two continuously use the vocabulary they learned on a daily basis and reach for this book often. Overall, we have definitely seen steady improvement in all our children’s coding knowledge since continuously using the techniques within these pages.

-Product review by Ta’Neisha Kemp, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May, 2018

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