Apps, Books, Computer Science, K-5, Parenting, Teaching Tools

Gifts for the Gifted – Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding

As I continue this year’s Gifts for the Gifted series, I should re-iterate a few things.  First of all, these recommendations are for all children – not just those identified as “Gifted and Talented.” Secondly, these gifts will be much more meaningful to their recipients if the gift-giver follows through by enjoying the gift along with the child.  This is particularly important to remember with today’s gift suggestion.

Hello Ruby began as a Kickstarter campaign by Linda Liukas, and is now available for purchase.  Liukas wanted to create a book that would showcase Ruby, a young girl who refuses to back away from a challenge.  Linda Liukas, as she learned to program, used the imaginary Ruby as her own inspiration to persevere in problem solving.


Some of you may recognize “Ruby” as a programming language – but don’t expect this to be a textbook. As Liukas states in her “Introduction for the Parent,” this book is not intended to teach programming.  Instead, it “introduces the fundamentals of computational thinking that every future coder will need.”  Targeted toward students in primary grades (I would recommend 2nd-4th), this book includes programming vocabulary, such as “functions” and “loops,” but is not a curriculum.

There is an “Activity Book” included in Hello Ruby.  This portion of the book includes 22 short activities to reinforce the coding concepts in the story.  Each one connects back to the storyline and characters, continuing with Liukas’ delightful illustrations.

I would recommend reading this book along with your child, and doing the exercises together.  If you pair the exercises along with some introductory programming activities, such as The Foos, Box Island, or Kodable, great connections can be made to the concepts in the book.  Also, be sure to visit the Hello Ruby website for more resources, including printable pages for the activity book.

For more in the “Gifts for the Gifted” series, check out this page.  If you would like more resources for programming for kids, here is my Pinterest Board for that topic.


Careers, Computer Science, Creative Thinking, Education, K-5, Student Products, Teaching Tools

Build Your Own Computer

Last year, our school’s art teacher asked the students to fill out forms about their teachers which she then compiled into books for each teacher. I laughed as I was reading my book.  For the sentence, “For fun, she likes to…” one student completed it with, “go on Kickstarter and get more things for our class.” (She also wrote that on weekends, “she works on her blog.”)

That child really gets me;)

It’s quite true that I’ve helped to fund a few Kickstarter projects that have ended up in my classroom – most notably the 3Doodler and Robot Turtles.

One of my contributions in the last few months went towards a charming children’s book that teaches programming.  It’s called, Hello Ruby. (Ruby is a programming language, but also the main character of the book by Linda Liukas.)  I haven’t received the book yet, but that’s okay; the author’s updates about the project have already proven my money is well-invested.

a portion of the Build Your Own Computer handout provided by Linda Liukas
a portion of the Build Your Own Computer handout provided by Linda Liukas

The most recent update invites everyone to try out some materials Liukas created for building an imaginary computer.  She provides a printout and instructions.  Her details of the playtesting that she has done already can be found in the post.  This is what she said about what she has learned so far, “One of the big things was realizing that most of the younger kids hadn’t even used a keyboard before. They didn’t necessarily realise an iPad was a computer. Computers were associated with work: little girls imagined using the paper computer as a part of playing house and dad/mom going to work. One of the kids, a young boy, had a great story of how he plays astronaut with his father and how the computer could be a part of that.”

Liukas would love to receive feedback if you try the activity.  Be sure to follow the link on her update to let her know what you think or submit pictures of a “Build Your Own Computer” session in action.

Books, Careers, Computer Science, Education, K-5, Parenting, Science, Teaching Tools

Hello Ruby!

Illustration from Hello Ruby by Linda Liukas
Illustration from Hello Ruby by Linda Liukas.  Click here to visit her Kickstarter page.

If you are a regular reader, you probably know two things about me – that I am a fan of Kickstarter, and that I am a proponent of teaching kids how to code.  One of my more recent Kickstarter acquisitions was the Robot Turtles game, which is a board game that introduces young students the basics of programming.  My first graders loved playing it during “Hour of Code” week, and it was easy to transition them to other programming games like Kodable once they had that foundation.

Kickstarter apparently knows me well, because one of their recent e-mails highlighted a new project that will also help to introduce students to programming, “Hello Ruby.”

The name of the main character of the proposed storybook, Ruby,  comes from Ruby on Rails, which is described as “an open-source web framework that’s optimized for programmer happiness and sustainable productivity.”  I must admit that, though I’ve heard it mentioned quite a bit in coding conversations, I know absolutely nothing about it.  It sounds intriguing – and completely over my head.

Linda Liukas, who co-founded “Rails Girls“, a non-profit with the goal of encouraging women to embrace technology, wants to help dispel the mystique around programming by creating a children’s book and workbook to introduce the topic.  Ruby is the main character.  According to Liukas, “Ruby’s world is an extension of the way I’ve learned to see technology. It goes far beyond the bits and bytes inside the computer. This is the story of what happens between the ones and zeros, before the arrays and the if/else statements. The book and workbook are aimed for four to seven year olds.”

The drawings are whimsical and appealing, just like Linda Liukas.  If you watch the video on her Kickstarter site, you will find it easy to understand why, even though she only requested $10,000 to back the project, over $175,000 has already been pledged – and there are still 25 more days to go.

I can’t really recommend a product that I haven’t actually used, but I will tell you that I have backed this project because it looks very promising.  For those of you who are not familiar with Kickstarter, there are various levels available for you to pledge, and the money is not taken from you until the end of the funding period (and only if it is fully funded).  Also, if the funding surpasses the original request, there are usually “stretch goals”, which allow backers to receive a bit more than they originally expected. Liukas has already listed the stretch goals for “Hello Ruby” on the site. Also, you should note that delivery of this particular product (if you pledge at a level to receive something) is expected in August of this year.

It’s exciting to back Kickstarter projects – to get in on the ground floor of the creation of something that has the potential to make a great impact.  During the process, you receive e-mail updates, and get to learn more about what has to happen in order for a dream to become a reality.  If you haven’t done it before, I encourage you to take a look at the Kickstarter site.  It’s a great feeling to contribute to helping someone to transform their ideas to tangible products that could effect the world.

Illustration from the accompanying Hello Ruby workbook by Linda Liukas
Illustration from the accompanying Hello Ruby workbook by Linda Liukas.  Click here to visit the Kickstarter page.