03: How to help your kids love computer science with Ruby

03: How to help your kids love computer science with Ruby

We are joined this week by author Linda Liukas, who created a wonderful series of children’s books called Hello Ruby. Linda got the idea for her books while learning computer programming herself and describes her books as “the world’s most whimsical way to learn about technology, computing and coding.” Linda also founded Rails Girls http://railsgirls.com, which organizes workshops to teach the basics of programming to girls and women. She joined us to talk about Ruby, her books and a brand-new YouTube series, Love Letters for Computers, that goes hand-in-hand with the Hello Ruby books.

In this episode we talk about:

1. Whimsicality! Linda and her Ruby books are proof that computer science and whimsical things are not mutually exclusive!

2. A universal desire to expose our kids to the technological world- her books have been translated into 28 different languages and are used by parents and teachers all over the world.

3. How Ruby came to be. While studying some “dull” (Linda’s words!) programming textbooks at Stanford University, Linda began doodling a young girl in her books, thinking about how a six-year-old girl would explain the concepts to her. Thus Ruby was “born!”

4. Exploring the idea that programming could be taught through stories rather than concepts. “I do feel that there is value in having these strong characters that…the children will memorize and remember as they grow older. Maybe they don’t actually make the connection of how they relate to the world of technology…but they have this strong emotional feeling that, ‘oh techonology is something that I can feel fearless and curious about; that I feel welcome to. I think that is what books can do far better than apps and other ways to teach.”

5. Ruby is joined by a whole cast of characters that were inspired by different aspects of computers, like Ruby herself (Ruby is a Japanese programming language). While you don’t need to know the inspiration behind each character to enjoy the story, there are plenty of easter eggs for parents and teachers familiar with the tech world to find on each page!

6. Even though our kids are growing up surrounded by technology and start using it proficiently at a very young age, there is great value in teaching them (and ourselves if we are not familiar with it) about what goes into creating these things. “Kids who know how to play games are consumers of technology, not creators. The fact that they can use apps does not mean that they have some magical understanding of…computer science.”

7. We as parents do not need to be an expert on the subject when introducing our kids to new information, we can be more of a “curator.”

8. Studies are showing that kids, especially girls as young as 5 and 6 are already developing self-limiting ideas about who can or can’t be a computer scientist.

9. Coding may be touted as a useful skill, but it can also be beautiful and interesting and “intensely creative.” Linda believes that we need more materials that show the “practicality of engineering meeting…the beauty of [the] arts…”

10. While it wasn’t their intended purpose, the Ruby books are being used more and more as a teaching tool in classrooms, so Linda has created a YouTube series, Love Letters for the Computer, intended as a resource for primary school teachers, with plans of a book to go along with it in the future.

Linda left us with a great idea of how to get started on putting these great ideas into practice this week. She invited us to check out the computer building activity https://www.helloruby.com/play/2  on the Hello Ruby website. We have done this with our own kids and we agree with Linda- it is a hit with kids of all ages and is a great activity to go along with the Hello Ruby books!

We are so grateful to Linda for taking the time to talk with us! More information about her, her books, and more can be found in the following places:

Instagram: @lindaliukas

Linda Liukas: http://lindaliukas.com

Hello Ruby: https://www.helloruby.com

Love Letters for Computers: http://www.helloruby.com/loveletters

02: Fighting the Decline by Nine

02: Fighting the Decline by Nine

We are joined this week by Lauren Tarshis, mother of four, author of the New York Times Bestselling series of books, I Survived, and Senior Vice President, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher for Scholastic Classroom Magazines. We connected with her to talk about her work with Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report, specifically a section they call the “Decline by 9,” which is a trend Scholastic’s Report has noted where children’s interest in reading sharply drops around age nine.

In this episode we talk about:

1. The Kids and Family Reading Report, what it is, how it is used.

2. The “decline by nine-” around age nine is when kids start to use reading in a new way; they read in order to learn, to explore, to build knowledge and expand their understanding of the world and themselves. Right at this critical point in a child’s reading journey, however, they have found that attitudes towards reading start to shift from reading as something enjoyable to not. 

3. Lauren mentions three thoughts on why this could be happening. In the US, 3rd grade, which is the grade most 9 year olds are in, is the beginning of “high-stakes testing.” Teachers are under huge amounts of pressure to help their kids perform well on reading tests, so reading goes from a social, enjoyable experience in the classroom to something more pressuring and stressful. This is also the age that more kids start to do things outside of school and kids have more demands on their time after school. Finally, as every parent can relate to is electronics and the role they play in tempting kids (and us adults!) away from reading books. 

4. Why it is important to know about the decline and the effects of it- “it’s empowering to know, because there really are things we can do.”

5. Knowledge gap- they are finding that kids are knowing less. They don’t know the name of the state they are living in, that the Mississippi is a river, what Mount Rushmore is, who the Beatles are, etc. This is tied to the decline of reading and not adding to their “vocabulary” of knowledge. 

6. “There are pretty simple steps that parents can take.” Deemphasizing electronics, carving reading time for the whole family, having books in the car, pull out a book instead of a phone if your child is anxious or impatient at a restaurant. 

7. What can you do if a child has already experienced the decline? Building reading time into the family schedule, finding books they are interested in (even if they aren’t the most “literary” books). Small things become habits!

8. Are there long-term effects of the decline by nine? What everyone agrees on at the baseline is that the ability to read at grade level in third grade is a significant milestone. There are some weighty statistics attached to that.

9. We may not be able to make all of our kids “love” reading, but we can help them see the importance of it and create a culture of reading that is positive and celebratory!

10. Kids want stories that inspire them and teach them and take them to new places.

Lauren left us with a great idea of how we as parents and caregivers can get started on putting all of this into practice this week. She invited us to not feel like failures, but to feel empowered! Take some simple steps to make reading a part of your kids’ lives- diminish time on electronics, model reading yourself and sticking with it even through the tough times!

We are so grateful to Lauren for taking the time to talk with us! More information about her, her books, and Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report can be found in the following places:

Instagram: @laurentarshis

Website: https://www.laurentarshis.com/

Lauren Tarshis’ latest book release, I Survived The Great Molasses Flood, 1919:

Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report: https://www.scholastic.com/content/dam/KFRR/Downloads/KFRReport_Finding%20Their%20Story.pdf

Books we mentioned in this episode:

Redwall, by Brian Jaques (1st book in series)

George by Alex Gino

01: “The More You Read, The Better You Get”

01: “The More You Read, The Better You Get”

We are joined this week by Cyndi Giorgis, co-author of the latest edition of the acclaimed and respected book, The Read Aloud Handbook, originally written by Jim Trelease. She is also a former first grade teacher, school librarian, committee member for numerous children’s book awards such as the Caldecott, Newbery and more, author and publisher, and is passionate about reading aloud to audiences of children. She joined us to chat about The Read Aloud Handbook and shared many of the benefits that come with reading aloud to kids of all ages.

In this episode, we talk about:

1. How Cyndi became involved with The Read Aloud Handbook.

2. Benefits of reading aloud with kids. The main benefit Cyndi gave us was the bonding that occurs when you read to children. Additionally, reading aloud gives children access to a much larger vocabulary of words and facts than they would hear in their everyday life.

3. The benefits of reading aloud extend to kids of all ages- maybe even more so as they get older. Research shows that reading aloud to kids starts to drop off around age seven, but we need to remember that a child’s listening level is much higher than their reading ability, so if we stop reading to them as they get older, they are missing out on all of these books and stories they cannot read themselves.

4. Reading out loud to older children can be a way to start conversations about things we aren’t sure how to talk to them about.

5. There is a difference between kids reading to themselves and reading aloud to them. Reading aloud to them gives them access to stories that they may not be able to access on their own. By reading aloud, we are also able to share, or “bless” a book with them the book- it is a gift we give them.

6. What can families who do not already have the foundation of reading in their homes do? Kids need to see their parents reading. “Parents need to maybe rediscover themselves as readers.” Designate times in your day that you will read aloud to them, such as at a meal time or bedtime. Even listening to an audiobook in the car with your kids gets you started in the right direction. If a child is reluctant, be patient and find the materials that they are excited about- be it poetry, graphic novels, nonfiction, pop-up books, etc.

7. Being read to by fathers and other men are an important part of the equation. With many teachers being women, it is more rare for kids to be read aloud to by men outside of their homes. Consequently, kids may not view reading as a thing that men do, which could affect them as they get older.

8. Included in The Read Aloud Handbook is what Cyndi calls a “treasure of books.” The first half is research, reading dos and dont;s, etc, but the second half is suggestions of great books to read aloud, separated into all different genres and reading levels. They are all great books and tested for reading aloud!

Cyndi left us with a great idea of how to get started on putting these great ideas into practice this week. She invited us to believe in the power of stories. When we read about someone like us, someone who inspires us or a place we don’t have access to, it can change our lives!

We are so grateful to Cyndi for taking the time to talk with us! More information about her and The Read Aloud Handbook can be found:

Instagram: @cyndigiorgis

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cyndigiorgis

Facebook: The Read-Aloud Handbook 

Website: https://www.cyndigiorgis.com

One Page at a Time Podcast Introduction – Episode 00

Jill and Amanda introduce ourselves and give you an insight into what is coming up on One Page at a Time.