Literacy is vital to be able to code. Although it is a different type of text reading and different type of decoding of text they are still extremely intertwined. As coding/programming is predominately text based except for scratch and a few other visual programming languages, the ability to read and write is vital in code. Without it, nothing works.
There are many advantages to learning to code in the classroom setting, or generally if the child/student has a curiosity about it. I find that many students have their inbuilt curiosity to make things move on a screen. They see it in apps, and to a certain point they normally manipulate something on the screen but for many students they would like to see their own creations and their own games happen.
For me the best part about teaching coding to younger students is helping them to learn and cement their literacy skills without them actually knowing it.
Scratch uses easy to understand words throughout most of its language, which makes it ideal for beginning readers and those that can read well. As the words used in scratch are used as instructional to manipulate the different objects you would like to, the language is kept to a minimum. In fact the hardest part of the language to understand is the x and y parts of the screen that it utilises. The great part about scratch is that everything is colour coded. This means that students who have trouble reading are still able to manipulate and use scratch and they learn by doing. For example in the below situation, it is focused on the movement of an object. The conditional language of when up arrow = key pressed is in brown, and the actions are in blue. Direction is probably one of the harder words throughout using scratch as well.
The key takeaway is this; Students will learn by doing, and will incidentally learn to read (well at least these directions) if they really want to make their game.
Reading in a set format
Reading code is different to reading a narrative, however it is extremely similar to reading an informational text. There is a procedure when reading code, which is a big necessity when learning to code, because when learning to code you make many, many. many mistakes. Reading and re-reading what you have made an object do is paramount to becoming a successful programmer. Reading the above instructions the students will need not only to read and understand the words, but also decode what it is saying and what is happening on the screen.