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Can you teach a child how to code - even if they can't read yet?

A new free app says you can.

Coding For Kindergarteners Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS

CAN YOU TEACH  a child to code, if they can’t even read yet?

Why yes you can – that’s the premise of a new app that was created by researchers in Massachusetts. Called ScratchJr, it teaches basic computer programming to kindergartners (that would be children in junior and senior infants here).

The makers say that the free app is suitable for children as young as five, who can use it to craft their own interactive stories and games. They don’t even have to know how to read.

So how does it work?

scratch jr

Children can snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters and other elements move, jump, talk and change size.

The co-developers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University say ScratchJr teaches kids to think creatively and helps them become confident in their skills in math, science and technology.

Coding For Kindergarteners Aiden Crott, 7, works with his ScratchJr program on an iPad at the Eliot-Pearson Children's School in Medford, Massachusetts Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Kindergartner Talia Levitt has started using the app at the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School in Medford.

She says it has taught her to concentrate and use her imagination.

Here in Ireland, James Whelton (aged 22) is the founder of Coder Dojo, which teaches young people computer coding skills.

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He learned how to code when he was just nine – but speaking at the 2012 Web Summit, he said:

I was coding since I was nine but academically, I was pretty horrible. Stuff I was really good at wasn’t recognised anywhere on the curriculum. Teachers thought I was thick as wood but coding was my thing.

There are now 500 Coder Dojo clubs run by volunteers all over the world,

One of its members is Harry Moran, who was under 13 when his game Pizzabot hit the top of the iPhone paid download charts – beating Angry Birds.

So when it comes to technology, it’s clear that age really is nothing but a number.

What do you think about coding for kids? Tell us in the comments.

- With additional reporting from AP

Read: Coder Dojo founder, aged 20, honoured at Web Summit>

Read: Column by James Whelton: How my computer club turned into a worldwide movement>

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