My daughter refused to try Scratch programming, despite my subtle suggestions. It seemed like something she'd enjoy, plus her dad is a software engineer, so I thought it would be a common interest they could share. She refused, so much that she wouldn't even walk near the Scratch booth at the Maker Faire in May. The girl can be stubborn.
Her position softened a little when she took a week of video game design foundations at Galileo Summer Quest. She loved video game programming. She talked nonstop about details, drafted plans, thought about sound effects, and said she'd definitely be taking the advanced class next summer. I brought up Scratch again, but she said she was comfortable with the video game design program used at camp and would rather work more on that. I said nothing, but I subtly placed Super Scratch Programming Adventure on her dresser. In under an hour, she'd read the entire book and was asking to try Scratch.
The book was fun for her – filled with comics and humor – and she said it made Scratch seem easy to understand. She said it would have been even easier had she already seen the Scratch program, then would have better understood the references. Still, she was excited, and ready to go.
The bigger surprise is what happened next. At bedtime one night, my six year old pulled out Super Scratch Programming Adventure as the storybook he wanted me to read. Sure enough, the kid was having a chapter or two read to him a night. It's difficult to say if he was lured in more by the comics or the fact that his sister enjoyed it so much.
Scratch is a free program, but I think the barrier for my daughter was that she didn't know where to begin. I like my kids branching into programming because it's another way to think, like another language, with rules, while also being another creative outlet. Scratch removed the frustration of learning programming by minimizes the rules, making development easier. She can make mistakes while she learns, and the only one who will know is her, which is important because despite my insistence that failure is crucial part of learning, she's failure-averse. Super Scratch Programming Adventure removed the learning curve, and showed that the program is simple, while making it seem like a lot of fun.
Who knows, we may have three programmers in the house soon.
Disclosure: Our review copy of Super Scratch Programming Adventure was provided for free by No Starch Press.