Mixing Reading with Coding in Early Childhood

As a librarian, my goal is to expose students to all forms of literacy. Coding, to me, is just another form.  Teaching coding allows me to integrate multiple disciplines together. Coding is a process just like the research process. That is why it fits so nicely in the library. Additionally, coding teaches problem solving, cooperation, and how to overcome failure.

With all that being said, I do not believe in just coding for coding sake. I feel it should fit within a bigger picture. Combining coding skills with other literacy skills is always my ultimate goal.

Below are a few examples of how I teach coding with early childhood students. Most of these ideas did not start with me. They are a collection of resources from amazing educators that I have learned from.

In March 2017, I had the opportunity to attend the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) conference. This is an annual conference where over 5,000 educators spend three days learning how to use technology effectively in the classroom. During this conference, I attended a session presented by Allison Mayer (@amayer_teach) and Widad Luqman (@TeachLuqman). They shared multiple ways they have been using Scratch Jr. with young children to teach coding paired with reading and writing skills. I have incorporated many of their ideas below.

Lessons to Introduce Coding Concepts:

  • Code the Students: For this activity, I use the Scratch Jr. blocks printed out. You could use any form of block language or even just arrows to complete this type of activity. I like to use the Scratch Jr. blocks because it makes using the app in later lessons much easier. I put a series of blocks up for students to see making sure to explain how the code starts and ends. Then the students move their bodies based on the code. Here is a link to a printer friendly version of these blocks.
  • Code the Teacher: For this activity, we use the same Scratch Jr. blocks as above, but this time the children code me. They make up a series of block commands. Then I complete the motions that fit with their code.
  • Code a Friend: Again, we use the Scratch Jr. blocks since the students are already familiar with this language. They are printed out about the size of a 3×5 card and cut apart. The children pair up and create codes for each other to act out using the pieces.

Lessons to Apply Coding Concepts:

Hunt. She shares many additional coding ideas that are geared at an elementary audience on her blog.

I took this idea and paired it with the book There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Alison Jackson. This allowed students to retell the story, code, and connect to the Thanksgiving holiday all in one lesson. The students were each given a page and a set of arrows. This lesson was completed with preschool students. So, I decided to print the arrows on labels in order to make it easier for students to participate. As we read the story we placed the arrows in the correct order. Then after reading the book we followed the arrows to retell the story. Here is both the page and arrows.

  • Scratch Jr. merged with Reading Comprehension: Students have completed numerous lessons with Scratch Jr. that tie with reading comprehension.  Here are few examples:

Sequencing the story:

Using the book Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum by Lisa Wheeler, we had the bubble gum travel over each of the characters as they got stuck.





Identifying the rhyming words:

As we read the book Moose on the Loose by Kathy-jo Wargin, we identified rhyming word pairs and added a piece to our code each time. The goal was to get the boy to the house where the moose was hiding.




Main idea and details:

After completing a novel study in second grade, students created four pages in Scratch Jr. to share the main idea and details. The first page explained the main idea of the text and the other three included details to support the main idea.  They presented these to their class.






Identifying main character and setting:

As part of Halloween, the preschool students each created their own Scratch Jr. project after reading the book Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara. Each student created their own ghost, as their character, and had him fly to the house, the setting.



  • Ozobots for Retelling: In a future lesson, the second-grade teachers and I will be using the Ozobots to retell a holiday a story with the students drawing the events and determining the path for the bot to travel. We will see how to turns out!

Do you have any amazing coding and literacy lessons to share? I would love to hear about them!


Author: Kelly Hincks

I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a school librarian for the past eleven years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a school librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair. I currently serve as secretary of my state association, Michigan Association of School Librarians (MASL).

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Technology

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2 replies

  1. Thanks for examples I can easily share with teachers as we expand literacy instruction.

  2. Great resource! Thanks so much for comping this!

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