I’m very excited about introducing Joey to another of my favorite books – Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion. For those of you not familiar with the story, Harry is a white dog with black spots who hates baths. One day he runs away from home and becomes so dirty that when he finally returns home his family no longer recognizes him, even when he does all his tricks. Finally, he runs into the bathtub and begs for the family to give him a bath. Once he’s clean, the family realizes that the dog in their tub is actually Harry and Harry learns that baths aren’t so bad after all.
To get ready to read Harry with Joey, I’ve gotten a small stuffed white dog, and velcroed black spots to him. I also have a toy bathtub and a pretend scrub brush. I’ve added boardmaker pictures icons to the book to draw attention to key concepts in the book, such as the opposites of clean/dirty, and Harry’s emotions as he goes from happy, to sad, to happy again.
My main goal for this book will be for us to act out the story together, while engaging in back and forth reciprocal communication.
Harry is a fun book for children this age because it adds a certain sense of naughtiness as Harry runs away from home and does whatever he wants, regardless of how dirty he becomes. The story also lets us focus on the concept of comparisons as Harry becomes dirtier and dirtier. At first there is no dirt, then a little, then a medium amount, and finally – there is so much dirt that Harry is covered in black. Retelling this part of the story will work on Joey’s sequencing skills as well, as he helps us put part of the story in order.
To work on Joey’s early literacy skills, we’ll focus on the letters H and D, for Harry, Dog and Dirty. We’ll add pictures of dirty, dog, and harry to Joey’s alphabet book. To support Joey’s growing math skills, we’ll count the number of black felt spots we use to turn the Harry stuffed animal from a white dog to a black dog. We’ll also play a game where we roll a dice use a black marker to add that many dots onto an outline of a white dog.
Most of all though, I’m hoping to use Harry as a chance for Joey and I to play and interact. We can be silly as roll the stuffed dog through the felt and get him dirty. We can pretend to scold that dirty dog, and pretend to give him a bath. When we read the book with Joey on the floor, he can pretend he is Harry, and can roll around to get dirty just like Harry.
You can hear Betty White read it on the Screen Actor’s Guild’s website, Storyline Online.