Niagara Falls or Does It? is the first book in Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver’s Hank Zipzer series. Hank Zipzer is inspired by the challenges that Henry Winkler (best known as the Fonz!) faced as a boy with undiagnosed Dyslexia. Henry’s undiagnosed Dyslexia made him a classic underachiever and gave him anxiety about all aspects of going to school.

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The Hank Zipzer series is about Hank’s funny adventures while highlighting the inner thoughts, doubts, and fears that living with learning differences poses. Henry himself, along with his co-author, Lin Oliver, explain their inspiration for the series here:

I loved the quote from Lin Oliver, ” The most important part for us in creating the series is to speak to kids and let them know that inside each one of them they have a unique and special contribution that they can make to the world.” Kids that face learning challenges, among them Dyslexia, often face depression and low-self esteem, thinking they are dumb or less than their peers. The series gives kids the voice to know that they aren’t “stupid” that they are just wired in a different way, and in many ways, this makes them even more talented in certain things.

As a parent of a child who deals with similar learning challenges, I find Henry Winkler and his character Hank Zipzer so inspiring. I was so happy to be able to give this book to my son in third grade so that he could read a book which had a character that he could relate to to inspire, knowing he is smarter than he may feel. Add the humor. and this kid was hooked. It’s great that there are sixteen more books in the series to keep kids reading.

I’d like to share another video from Henry Winkler, where he discusses Dyslexia and shares his experiences. He is an inspiring role model for kids with learning challenges, and if you have someone in your life struggling, be it a student or your own child, please share this with them as well.

Benefits of Using Niagara Falls, or Does It? in Your Classroom:

  • Offers a Relatable Protagonist: Hank Zipzer, the main character of the book, is a relatable figure for many students. Hank struggles with Dyslexia, a learning difference that affects his academic performance and self-esteem. His journey resonates with students who may face similar challenges, offering them a character they can identify with and providing a platform for discussions about diversity, empathy, and resilience.
  • Promotes Literacy and Empathy: Niagara Falls or Does It? not only entertains but also promotes literacy skills and empathy. As students follow Hank’s adventures, they are exposed to rich vocabulary, descriptive language, and engaging storytelling. Additionally, the book fosters empathy as readers gain insight into Hank’s experiences and emotions, encouraging them to understand and appreciate differences in others.
  • Explores Important Themes: This novel touches on various themes that are relevant to students’ lives, such as friendship, family dynamics, overcoming challenges, and the importance of perseverance. By exploring these themes through Hank’s experiences, teachers can initiate meaningful discussions and activities that encourage critical thinking and personal reflection.
  • Provides Multidisciplinary Learning Opportunities: Niagara Falls or Does It? provides ample opportunities for multidisciplinary learning. Teachers can incorporate activities related to geography, history, science, and even mathematics, making the book a versatile addition to various subject areas. From exploring the geography of Niagara Falls to conducting experiments related to water flow, the possibilities for cross-curricular integration are endless.
  • Encourages a Growth Mindset: Hank Zipzer’s journey exemplifies the power of a growth mindset – the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and effort. Despite facing numerous obstacles, Hank perseveres and learns to embrace his strengths and weaknesses. By highlighting Hank’s growth mindset, teachers can inspire students to adopt a positive attitude towards challenges and view mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth.
  • Supports Inclusivity and Diversity: In today’s diverse classrooms, it is essential to include literature that reflects the experiences of all students. Niagara Falls or Does It? celebrates diversity through its portrayal of characters from different backgrounds and abilities. By featuring a protagonist with dyslexia, the book promotes inclusivity and encourages acceptance of individual differences.

Niagara Falls or Does It? offers a wealth of educational benefits that make it a valuable addition to any classroom curriculum. From promoting literacy and empathy to fostering a growth mindset and celebrating diversity, this novel has the power to engage students on multiple levels while imparting important life lessons. Teachers who incorporate Hank Zipzer into their classroom instruction will not only enrich their students’ learning experiences but also cultivate a culture of empathy, resilience, and inclusivity.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Niagara Falls, or Does it? for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

See what people are saying about the Hank Zipzer: Niagara Falls, or Does It? Novel Study by The Teaching Bank!


Try a free sample of the novel study for Hank Zipzer: Niagara Falls, or Does It?

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Once you’ve moved through the Hank Zipzer series another great book that comes from the voice of a character with Dyslexia which I highly recommend for kids in grades 4-6, is Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mulally Hunt.

Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

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