Great Books for Beginning Programmers

Teachers Learn To Code part 2

I tend to try to write mostly about issues related to using technology in preschool and kindergarten classrooms.  That is after all, the title of this website.  When I started this site however,  another of my goals was to improve my teaching and my learning by reflecting on my own work. Right now, that work involves learning to write code, so that’s what I’m inclined to reflect on.  I’ve learned enough code that I’ve built my own website from scratch. ( My Technology In Early Childhood site came all all nicely prepackaged and bundled.  I could have conceivably created and maintained it without knowing a bit of code. I wrote all of the code for my new site, all by myself!)   Someday, I might move my reflections about learning to write code over to my new site,  but I haven’t learned quite enough code to create a blog-type environment over there, so for the time being, this is the easiest place to put my thoughts about learning to write code. You can consider this the second installment in my newest series,  Learn to Code: For Teachers.

In my last post about learning to program, I wrote about the web resources I’d uncovered. There are plenty and I am making good use of them. I’ve also been surprised to find that good old fashion paper books are really helpful to my learning too.  People say that the best way to learn to code is to read and write a lot of it.  I’ll concur with that statement,  but there’s nothing like a good book for explaining how that code works. Sure, there are plenty of great programming books on websites or digital formats,  but I can’t get to those as easily when I’m at the baseball field waiting for my son’s practice to get over or sitting in the dentist’s office while my kids get their teeth cleaned.  (No free wi-fi at the dentist office, go figure! ;) )  Also, one series of books that I’ve purchased are as much workbook as text book.  You actually solve problems and write code, right on the pages of the book! Can’t do that with a digital book!  The one downside is that books about programming go out of date very, very quickly.  If it’s more than a couple of years old, it could be out of date. Fortunately, I’ve been able to find a number of books that are only a year or two old.  One of them was even released just last week! Can’t beat that for current! Here are the books that have been most helpful to me so far.  I think they are great books for beginning programmers.  The image of the book will take you to Amazon so that you can get a close look at the publisher’s description, etc.

Head First HTML & CSS Second Edition

I love this book.     It’s the first book I read and it made everything seem so simple and easy! It broke each concept apart and used illustrations and examples that made the content stick in my brain! It’s the perfect book for beginners who have never written a line of code before and want to understand exactly what is happening behind the scenes. It is not your typical programming book. It’s interesting, engaging and doesn’t put you to sleep with boring technical terms.

Head First JavaScript Programming

This is the follow up to the HTML/CSS book above, and boy am I ever glad I spent the money on this one! JavaScript is hard! I say that as a beginner, but I’ve been talking with some of my mentors in the last few days and they say the same thing.  JavaScript is a tough language to get your mind around.   I totally needed the visual, brain based approach that the Head First series uses in its books to help me learn JavaScript.  The Head First books are the ones that also incorporate a workbook approach.  There are challenges, puzzles and activities throughout each chapter that help reinforce the concepts, and also give me a little confidence boost as I work through the material.  Really, if you’re wanting to learn JavaScript,  this is the book to start with. (FYI, it’s  hard to do too much with JavaScript without a pretty solid understanding of HTML & CSS so start there if you’re like me, and just beginning to learn how to write code. )

 HTML & CSS Design and Build Websites, by Jon Duckett

If the Head First books are my learning books, my Jon Duckett books are my reference books.  I know plenty of people learn from them too, but I’m finding them particularly useful as a resource.  If I forget exactly how to code a certain element or how to write the CSS for a button I can check the index and quickly find a simple explanation that’s not only easy to understand, but beautifully rendered too.  I never would have imagined that there were a way to make code look pretty, but Jon Duckett has found it and I love it.   I mentioned in my last post about twitter that I’m very drawn to images and this book is full of large, pretty images.  Take a peek at the amazon preview with the “look inside” function. I guarantee you’ll never find another programming book as pretty as this one is!  The fact that it’s clear and concise too makes it a book worth having on my shelf!

 JavaScript & JQuery, By Jon Duckett

Ok, there is in fact, another programming book as pretty as Jon Duckett’s HTML & CSS book: It’s his JavaScript book. I was counting the days for this book to be released. It came out last week and I got my hands on a copy at one of my programming study groups last night. This book did not disappoint!   I’ve ordered a copy and know that it will only deepen my understanding of JavaScript.  I looked at it for maybe 5 minutes last night and in just that short period of time, it helped me see modals in a whole new light!  I can’t wait until it shows up on my doorstep!

So these are my favorite books so far! I’m really hoping that Head First or Jon Duckett come out with a Ruby book soon since I’m going to be jumping into that language again next week, but these are enough to keep me busy (and my pocket book empty!) for the time being. What are your favorite books for learning programming?

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