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Niagara Falls or Does It? is the first book in Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver’s Hank Zipzer series. is a great book to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, small book groups, or individual book studies that present the learning challenges that Hank Zipzer experiences due to his undiagnosed Dyslexia.

Hank Zipzer is inspired by the challenges that Henry Winkler (best known as the Fonz!) faced as a boy. Henry’s undiagnosed Dyslexia made him a classic underachiever and gave him great anxiety about all aspects of going to school. 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.

From the Book Jacket of Niagara Falls, or Does it?:

It’s science project time in Ms. Adolf’s class. This is good news and bad news for Hank-he loves science, but he hates the report part. So Hank turns to TV to take his mind off things. But when the program directory scrolls by too quickly for Hank to know what’s on, he decides to take apart the cable box to try to slow down the crawl. Great! Now Hank has found the perfect science project! But what he wasn’t counting on was his sister’s pet iguana laying eighteen eggs in the disassembled cable box. How is Hank going to get out of this one? 

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.

niagara falls with a rainbow

As a parent who has a child that deals with similar learning challenges, I find Henry Winkler and his 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 that had a character that he could relate to and give him inspiration that 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, may it be a student or your own child, please share this with them as well.

Once you’ve moved through the Hank Zipzer series another great book I highly recommend for kids, in grades 4-6, that comes from the voice of a character with Dyslexia 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!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

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