May 28, 2017

Story Penned by a Facebook Programmer Teaches Kids Computer Science

From

A Looking Glass tale for the computer age, Lauren Ipsum tells the story of a young girl who braves dangerous “Jargon” and travels through password-protected gates, using reason to find her way home. Author Carlos Bueno hopes young readers will enjoy the adventure, which introduces kids to programming language as they trace Lauren’s path through Userland.

“Computer science is about how to think, how to see the world as a process and how to analyze,” says Bueno, a programmer at Facebook, who crafted the story with his wife, illustrator Ytaelena López. “People think programming and computer science is hard, but they forget that this gets easier as people explain it to them. And I know kids can learn this.”

After a year and a half of polishing his draft, Bueno decided he needed to test his tale on readers—beyond friends and family—and turned to Kickstarter, hoping to gauge interest in the hybrid computer lesson and story, while also trying to raise $500 to translate the book into Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French. He gave himself a two-month goal on the fundraising site and reached it within 24 hours. To date, nearly $4,000 has been raised.

“Most of [the contributions] are from people we don’t know,” he says of Lauren Ipsum’s backers, who responded from around the world, including France, Brazil, and New Zealand.

In addition to the computer science woven throughout the story, the title, too, involves a code. It’s a play on the dummy text—“lorem ipsum”—used by printers, graphic designers, and computer programmers as a placeholder.

Illustration from Lauren Ipsum by Ytaelena López

While readers may not get every reference, they are clearly interested in the book. In addition to hearing from 119 backers thus far, Bueno has started to receive pre-orders for the book in both print and digital formats. He expects the final work to be ready by early December and priced at about $4 to $6 for Kindle, iBook, and PDF versions, among other formats, and $10 to $12 for paperbacks.

Of course, there are standing orders from his friends and coworkers at Facebook, who’ve supported him during his writing experience. “I’m definitely going to have to buy some extra copies and scatter them around,” he says.

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Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.