Worm Burner, age 10 and resident Tech Support, asked if I would teach him C++ this summer.
Sure, no problem. Except that the last time I used C++ was during my Ph.D. dissertation and my summer plans did not include hours in front of the terminal re-learning how to program.
Normally, I’m all about fiction, but today I want to recommend a non-fiction book, Beginning C++ through Game Programming, by Michael Dawson.
This book is great for beginning programmers, especially if they have some previous programming experience (Worm Burner had already programmed in QBasic on Windows). Even if they had no previous experience, this book would walk them step-by-step through concepts like variables, input/output, loops, strings, and arrays. Best of all, it uses game example programs like Word Jumble, Mad Lib, and Tic-Tac-Toe to hook kids into figuring out the logic behind programming and applying their nascent C++ skills in a way that’s fun and entertaining.
And also competitive, when you have more than one brother learning how to program. After all, there was no way Dark Omen (age 12) was going to let his little brother get the jump on him.
Note that this book is not intended for children. It just has a great easy-to-use format and style that lends itself to children who are advanced readers and budding programming geeks. But the programming itself is all solid C++. In other words, they’re learning the real deal.
The best part about this book was that I just had to get my boys started with the first few chapters. We sat down, walked through the lessons, uploaded and changed sample code, and played around a bit. After chapter 4, they carried on without me, teaching themselves (via the book) and leaping to new heights with their programming through their own initiative.
Which is how every good
hacker programmer gets his start.
(In case you’re wondering, we had a good long talk about Using Your Powers For Good. I felt like Spiderman’s uncle, but we have the With Great Power Must Come Great Responsibility talk in our house a lot.)
If you have a budding
hacker programmer in your house, here’s how to keep them occupied get them started:
UPDATE: Someone asked if this would suit a 16 year old. Answer: YES! My kids are in the uber-geek-class of childhood, so please understand: this book would be equally useful for teens and beginner adults, not just 10-12 year olds.
If the DoJ comes to investigate, I disavow all knowledge of recommending computer programming books to minors. This message will self destruct in 3 … 2 … 1 …