Five Reasons to Teach Your Kids to Code

Rosie Dickens, the award-winning author of Coding for Beginners: Using Scratch and Lift-the-Flap Computers and Coding, both published by Usborne, tells us why we all need to help build children's coding skills.

Rosie is now working on Coding for Beginners Using Python, Look Inside How Computers Work and a coding activity book.

Rosie says: "Until about a year ago, I didn't know much about coding. I wrote a couple of simple programs on a BBC microcomputer sometime in the 1980s, and then... nothing. For my generation, the emphasis was on learning to use software, not learning to code. So working on these books has been a big learning curve - but enormously rewarding!

Now I can see the benefits of learning to code, I want to share them with everyone... starting at home. My daughter, Bella, is five years old and loves playing around with code and making animations using Scratch Jr (a kids' coding app) and Scratch (a computer language designed for beginners). And as coding is now part of the curriculum, she is also learning about coding at school - where my husband Ben, a professional coder and all-round computer geek, runs the Code Club.

1. Coding is cool!

It allows you to mess about and make things, see them come to life, and then share them with other people. Crafting a good piece of code can be really satisfying, like solving a puzzle, and you're always learning something new. As an added incentive, the BBC Make It Digital campaign is now offering a free mini-computer to every child in Year 7.

2. Coding teaches important life skills.

Coding teaches you to think logically, break tasks down into manageable chunks, test your ideas and solve problems. It puts you in charge, so it's a great confidence builder, and it can be good for teamwork. Coding is also a great creative outlet, especially for children who feel less at home with reading and writing, as they can use code to make pictures, animated stories and games of their own.

3. Coding is now an essential topic on the UK curriculum... and you might not be able to offer homework help.

By the end of Year 2, children are expected to create and debug a simple program and understand what algorithms are. In a recent survey, 30 percent of parents said they didn't feel they could help their child with coding homework, and 40 percent of parents admitted they 'dreaded' it. All the more reason to learn together...

A computer isn't a magic box, it's a machine - and unlike children, it always does exactly what it's told! The jargon can be off-putting, but the ideas are mostly quite straightforward. For example, 'algorithm' is just a fancy word for a list of instructions, like a recipe: follow it correctly and you should always get the same result.

4. It could be good for their career.

Being able to code will help your child stand out from the crowd when it comes to university applications and job interviews. This is particularly true for girls, as there are so few women working in tech right now.

Code First: Girls say: "Despite their strong grades, not many girls are continuing with STEM subjects in Higher Education, and companies are struggling to fill the talent pipeline. Sparking your child's interest in coding from an early age will really give them a head start towards employability."

Models and actresses from Lily Cole to Mindy Kaling have spoken out to encourage girls to learn to code and, earlier this year, Karlie Kloss set up a coding scholarship for young women.

5. The world is changing.

Computers and coding are becoming increasingly essential to our lives. Experts predict that, within a few years, not knowing the language of computers could be as challenging as being illiterate or innumerate is today. At the same time, learning to code is MUCH easier than it used to be - Scratch makes it as simple as a set of building blocks, and it's free to download or use online. Understanding how computers work will help you get more out of them. So what are you waiting for?'

You can find out more about Usborne's books on computing here:

23/11/2015Five Reasons to Teach Your Kids to Code
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