Ruby, a “small girl with a huge imagination,” is the redheaded star of Hello Ruby, an illustrated storybook dreamed up by Linda Liukas (also a redhead) as a way to make computer programming fun for young girls. Liukas, a Codeacademy alum and cofounder of Rails Girls, a nonprofit that hosts coding workshops for women around the world, created Hello Ruby and the accompanying activity books to spark the imaginations of young readers and introduce them to what she calls the “magical world of technology.” Earlier this month, Liukas started a Kickstarter campaign to help bring Ruby to life. Her goal was fairly modest: raise $10,000 in order to pay for and distribute 1,000 copies of Hello Ruby in the U.S. and Finland, where Liukas was born and now resides. Ruby herself couldn’t have imagined what happened next. Within a few hours, the fundraising goal was  surpassed. As of this writing, almost 5,600 backers have now pledged more than $236,000 to get Hello Ruby in the hands of youngsters everywhere.
MORE: The High-Tech Ride That’s Getting Kids Excited About Coding
Liukas wrote and illustrated Hello Ruby herself, casting technology as a world of beauty and possibility. But she didn’t always see it that way. Liukas first became interested in programming at age 13, when she built a fan site dedicated to her teenage crush: Al Gore. (Yes, you read that right.) “[When I first started taking classes], I thought programming was stupid and I didn’t want to work in technology,” Liukas told Fast Company. “It was hard not having a computer science or computing background. Why would a young girl care about computers?”
It’s no secret that there is a glaring gender imbalance in the computer sciences. According to the Department of Education, only 18 percent of graduates from computer science programs were female in 2011. However, women account for 78 percent of active users on social networking sites, which were almost solely created by men. To help rebalance this equation, Liukas created Ruby, who, through her spunky adventures, teaches girls about programming principles, sequences, open source culture, and storytelling. “Hopefully, this project will lead to a new kind of Internet,” Liukas says. “A gentler Internet.”
ALSO: Chicago Schools Just Made This Tech-Savvy Move. The Rest of the Country Is Next