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Summer Solutions Reading Activity for Young Children (Pre–K to Grade 2)

Springtime can be magical for children and their pets. Spend some time with an adorable pup by exploring a longtime-favorite, Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion with illustrations by Margaret Bloy Graham. Then, create a story map. (By the way, you can use this idea with any children’s book.)

If you don’t have a copy of Harry the Dirty Dog at home, access the YouTube video featuring Betty White as narrator. Written more than 60 years ago, this classic picture book is about a mischievous pet who shuns bathing. It’s a great read-aloud for young children.

Story mapping provides practice with identifying the parts of a story, such as setting and characters. It also reinforces sequencing (the ability to retell the story from beginning to end). These are key comprehension strategies that can expand your child’s reading enjoyment.

Print the story map graphic organizer or use blank sheets of paper. You will need six sheets, one each for the title, setting, characters, beginning, middle, and end. Your child will also need pencils, crayons, or markers.

Remind your child that a story has elements, for example, when and where the story happens (setting), the people and animals (characters), and what happens in the story in the beginning, middle, and end (plot).

Read Harry the Dirty Dog (or watch the YouTube video).

Afterwards, discuss the story to help your child plan a story map. Use these questions:

What is the title of the story?  

Harry the Dirty Dog

Who are the characters?

Harry (main character)
Harry’s family, and the people and dogs Harry meets while playing

What is the setting—when and where does the story happen?

during the day, in a city or town, at the family’s house, in the backyard

Retell the story. What happens first?

Harry doesn’t like having a bath, so he takes the scrubbing brush and buries it in the backyard. He runs away and plays all day in the dirt.

What happens in the middle of the story?

When Harry is tired and hungry, he goes home. But he’s so dirty, nobody recognizes him! They think Harry is a strange dog.

How does the story end?

Harry digs up the scrubbing brush and begs for a bath. The children give him a soapy bath. They discover that the dirty dog is Harry! Everybody is happy because Harry is home and clean.

Have your child create a story map, using one sheet for each part you’ve discussed. Young children can draw the parts of the story. Older children can write a sentence or two for each page.

When the activity is done, your child will have created a complete story summary!

Summer Solutions

Summer Solutions offers kids the ability to review the skills that they were taught during this school year. That way when they return to school in a few weeks or even next fall, they will be ready to continue right where they left off.

About the author

Nancy Tondy

Nancy is a former elementary teacher and gifted intervention specialist. She joined Simple Solutions in 2005 as co-author of the original English Grammar & Writing Mechanics series, and today, she manages our Writing Team. Outside of work, Nancy enjoys cooking, movies, biking, and travel.

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