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If: Ball, Then: Catch – a children’s introduction to programming

A copy of the book resting on a coffee table

When a young girl receives a robot dog for her 8th birthday, she discovers the toils and rewards of software programming.

I want to talk about this children’s book that my friend has written. It’s been decades since elementary school but everything about this book vividly brings back early reading memories – the large print easy-to-follow sentences and accompanying bright illustrations on each page all seem so familiar.

Find out more about If: Ball, Then: Catch at its official website.

My childhood books were prominently the imaginary worlds of Bill Pete and Dr. Seuss, and the contemporary world of the pre 90s. The times have moved on and changed; a programmable robot dog fits perfectly in a children’s narrative of our electronics-driven world.

The young girl learning how to program this robot dog is what stands out to me, and this is an important point to draw attention to. Software is increasingly common-place in our society, and with it a truly remarkable trend that allows creativity to blossom. Increasingly more products allows for customization through simple programming: spreadsheet formulas, data dashboards, and even cars.

I can only assume that this trend will continue and it is crucial to familiarize the next generations with basic programming literacy just as we were familiarized with basic number literacy. Electronics with customizable software will likely play an bigger role in their time and this knowledge will do them a great service.

This kind of book will also play a role in demystifying what is programming. Yes, there are some challenging topics, like in any other field, but it isn’t exclusive for only the most elite of nerds – an unfortunate stigma from the past. Programming is mostly writing clear steps to be followed, something that is already done verbally and in writing. It’s a matter of feeling comfortable enough to try it, and comfort comes from familiarity.

If you’re looking for a book for your kid, do consider If: Ball, Then: Catch.