My talented wife has been learning to code. Specifically, she’s been learning front-end web development, starting with HTML and CSS.
One of her projects as part of a coding bootcamp she joined is to build a basic site with the HTML and CSS she’s learned. She experimented with a CSS-powered dropdown menu on her project site, and hit a snag with it, so I took a look at it last night.
In the process of working out a solution, we found something new we can do as a coding couple … submit and merge pull requests (no pun intended there ).
My wife and I are avid readers and I suspect our daughter will also be one. She loves it when we read to her and she has started reading library books to herself. Our son, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be that keen on reading most of the books I find for me. On the other hand, he seems to be very interested in learning to code.
Our son’s introduction to coding
I’ve been teaching myself Python (2.7.x if you are curious). I picked Python because it is one of two languages that people seem to recommend for coding newbies. The other is PHP. It may not be the easiest language to learn but I thought I have to start somewhere and it seems to be a good language to know.
The exercise involved creating a pretty basic script and I showed what I had done to my son. He loved it and immediately wanted to know if he could also start working through the book.
Like many kids, he is a Minecraft nut and I have a feeling the Minecraft mod classes on Tynker might be great for him.
Persuading him to read too
My challenge, though, is that he needs to spend time reading books too, particularly in Hebrew. He is in a Hebrew language school and while he is largely bilingual, his Hebrew is weaker than the kids in his class because he has only been speaking Hebrew for just over 2 years.
He enjoys reading Hebrew graphic novels and often re-reads his favourites. He just isn’t that interested in novels and gives up soon after starting a book. On the one hand, I’m happy for him to read graphic novels because he is at least reading something. On the other hand, he needs more variety in what he’s reading or he won’t learn new words and different writing styles.
Another option is to find different books. He is interested in the Second World War so I’ll look for age appropriate books about WW2 when I am next at the library.
It also doesn’t help that his Hebrew is stronger than mine because I can’t help him all that much when he encounters new words. He is also probably reluctant to ask me about words he doesn’t understand because he doesn’t think I’ll understand them either (he’s probably correct although I look up words I don’t understand).
The thing is, reading is as important as ever.
It’s all very well that kids can access much of human knowledge with whichever device they happen to have in their pockets at the time. Unfortunately, they typically use those connected, pocket computers to play Clash Royale and go hunt Pokemons (is that the correct term?) instead of expanding their knowledge of the world around them.
If kids don’t read, they won’t expand their language skills as much and be able to express themselves more effectively. Reading also stimulates their imaginations and that fuels their creativity.
Bribery and extortion as parenting skills
The things kids do on their devices is fun, sure. I certainly spent as much time as I could playing with the distant ancestors of our kids’ devices but they weren’t as pervasive back in the 1980s.
These days we have to limit the time our kids spend on their devices or we just don’t see them over the weekend. They spend their time watching superficial YouTube videos (even on YouTube Kids which our daughter uses).
Thankfully, the devices they use tend to run out of charge after a couple hours and that ends their device time for the day. After that they tend to play with each other or, as the weather improves, head out to the park to play now and then.
I have a feeling that linking his new interest in learning to code with encouraging him to read more may be the way to go. In the time-honoured tradition of parents bribing and extorting their kids to do things that are good for them, I may resort to requiring reading time in exchange for more coding time. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
Speaking of which, what do you do? How do you get your kids to read more in this digital age we’re living in?
Our son's new interest in learning to code prompted me to think about how I could link this hobby to persuading him to read more. In doing so, it seems to me that there is a strong argument to be made for bribery.