Hello, my name is Dave McCanless, and I want to tell you the story of how I came to write "First Class: Teaching Infants and Preschoolers to Read"...
What began as the best week of our lives abruptly turned into one of the worst. My wife and I had been trying to have a child for several years and our prayers were finally answered when our son was born in the summer of 1981.
Within one week after Kenny was born, he suddenly developed a fever. We called his pediatrician who said to bring him in immediately. A high fever for newborns is a real warning sign. The pediatrician inserted a needle into Kenny’s stomach to get a urine sample. It was determined from the sample that Kenny needed to have a spinal tap to confirm or rule out the medical diagnosis.
I watched through the window as the doctor inserted the needle into Kenny's spine and withdrew the sample. All the while, Kenny wailed in pain. It didn’t take long for his pediatrician to come to us with the results. Kenny had spinal meningitis.
His pediatrician went on to explain that it was the type of meningitis that had to run its course, meaning that antibiotics were not expected to be of use in his case. The doctor matter-of-factly stated there was a 50/50 chance that Kenny would not survive. If he did survive, he could suffer brain damage, hearing loss, lifelong learning disabilities and a multitude of other complications. My wife and I were in utter shock as we listened to this prognosis.
There we were—having gone from being proud parents of a brand new baby boy—to being scared beyond belief. We spent the next three days near his incubator, at times watching him go into convulsions from the fever. With each convulsion, our trepidation grew worse. Finally, after three days in the hospital, Kenny’s fever began to break and ultimately returned to normal. Kenny had made it!
During the following weeks, we kept a close eye on Kenny and his temperature, constantly looking for any negative consequences of the meningitis, remembering vividly what the doctor had said about possible ramifications. The weeks turned into months, and everything seemed to be going well. Still, the warnings of Kenny’s pediatrician were constantly on my mind.
It was during this period that I asked myself the following question: “What is the one thing that I could do as a parent that would be the most beneficial to my son in the long run and help give him a head start, and also help minimize any potential lasting effects from his earlier medical setback?"
The answer came to me when I was browsing early childhood development books at my local library. I came across a book written by a doctor who claimed it was possible to teach children—even those who suffered from brain damage—to read at a very early age.
That was the beginning of what was to become the most startling discovery and the most amazing time of my life. I used what I learned from this book and other research—along with techniques I developed on my own—to create an early reading program for Kenny.
At the age of 8 months, I introduced Kenny to sight words (word cards). As to be expected, his first attempts at pronunciation were garbled. However, the important thing was that he was starting to associate the word on the card with an actual object and a word that could be spoken. I was astounded at how quickly (given the right learning environment and using the right techniques) the connections in his brain were growing!
Over the next several months, I used a variety of techniques to have my son reading some of the basic Golden Books by the time he was 16 months old. By the time he was two-years-old, he was reading many books aloud to us and on his own. Just to prove Kenny's success was not a fluke, I used the exact same methods with my second child, Katie, with equal success.
I detail all of the methods I used with my children in "First Class: Teaching Infants and Preschoolers to Read."
Fast-forward 30+ years...
Since graduating from Humboldt State University as a Business major, I've had many jobs. I've worked as a dairy farmer, a real estate agent, an appraiser for the Humboldt County Assessor’s Office, a member of the Ferndale Elementary School Board, and a right-of-way agent for the State of California.
Of all of the things we've done in our lives (and I believe my wife would whole-heartedly agree), the one thing that has given us the most pleasure is the gift that we have given our children of teaching them to read at an early age. We have seen how it has impacted their lives in a positive way, increased their confidence and contributed significantly to their academic success.
Most parents would be utterly shocked to learn how easy it is to teach their toddlers to read in just 15-minutes a day. Given the fundamentals that you'll read about in my eBook, you'll see the amazing things your child is able to comprehend at such an early age. As he/she progresses with the reading program, you may ask yourself the same questions I asked myself many years ago...
“Why has this been such a secret? Surely, schoolteachers must know about this phenomenon? Why did I have to learn about it by accident? Why is there no organized effort to emphasize to parents the value of teaching children to read at a young age? Why is it left up to the parents to find out for themselves?"
Ultimately, that is the reason I’m writing this book. I want parents to understand the possibilities for their children. It has been my experience—and the experiences of others who have used earlier versions of my program—that there is tremendous value in teaching your very young child to read.
Looking back on all of the good times we’ve shared with our kids in various activities from infancy all through their college years, I can honestly say that nothing gave me more pleasure than being involved in teaching them to read by the time they were two years of age. I’m a firm believer that this could be the norm in our society and not the exception. Believe me, it is not rocket science. After you’ve read "First Class: Teaching Infants and Preschoolers to Read" a time or two, I think you will understand the message.
In simple terms, it is about creating a positive, loving learning environment. You can then take advantage of what I refer to as “word play” to introduce your child to the world of words. By using very simple steps outlined in the book, you'll bring the words to life using your own creativity and good humor. It will not only help to create a bond between you and your child, but if your experience is like mine was, you may very well find it the most satisfying experience you’ll ever have with your kids.
You as the parent are in a vital position. You don’t want to pass the buck when it comes to teaching your kids to read. If you read "First Class" and follow the steps, you may very well be the best teacher your child has ever had.
Thank you for reading my remarks. Please purchase my book, visit my website, and feel free to contact me with your questions, comments and insights.