Analysis of Computational Thinking in Children’s Literature for K-6 Students: Literature as a Non-Programming Unplugged Resource
As schools and districts across the United States adopt computer science standards and curriculum for K-12 computer science education, they look to integrate the foundational concepts of computational thinking (CT) into existing core subjects of elementary-age students. Research has shown the effectiveness of teaching CT elements (abstraction, generalization, decomposition, algorithmic thinking, debugging) using non-programming, unplugged approaches. These approaches address common barriers teachers face with lack of knowledge, familiarity, or technology tools. Picture books and graphic novels present an unexplored non-programming, unplugged resource for teachers to integrate computational thinking into their CT or CT-integrated lessons. This analysis examines 27 picture books and graphic novels published between 2015 and 2020 targeted to K-6 students for representation of computational thinking elements. Using the computational thinking curriculum framework for K-6, we identify the grade-level competencies of the CT elements featured in the books compared to the books’ target age groups. We compare grade-level competencies to interest level to identify each CT element representation as “foundational,” “on-target,” or “advanced.” We conclude that literature offers teachers a non-programming unplugged resource to expose students to CT and enhance CT and CT-integrated lessons, while also personalizing learning based on CT readiness and interest level.