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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hank Zipzer is a British show that's based on Henry Winkler's children's book series of the same name and whose hero is a grade-schooler with dyslexia. Hank's experiences -- inspired by Winkler's own as a child -- create lots of funny mishaps, but more importantly, they increase awareness of learning challenges as a whole. There are some incidents of mild bullying -- especially at the hands of Hank's nemesis, who enjoys seeing him fail -- but overall, the stories focus on Hank's success in overcoming the challenges that his dyslexia poses in school and outside activities. The importance of mentors and the value of having loyal friends are recurring themes in this excellent, family-friendly series.
What's the story?
HANK ZIPZER is a British series about a 12-year-old boy (Nick James) whose dyslexia poses certain challenges for him in school and extracurricular learning. Hank's classmates don't break a sweat over things like simple written reports about summer adventures, but for him, these are show-stoppers, and he will do just about anything to avoid them. Even though his rigid teacher, Miss Adolf (Felicity Montagu), doesn't always appreciate his efforts to think outside the box, he finds a kindred spirit in his music teacher, Mr. Rock (Henry Winkler), and in his best friends, Frankie (Jayden Jean-Paul-Denis) and Ashley (Chloe Wong, later Alicia Lai), who encourage and support Hank.
Is it any good?
Henry Winkler's beloved literary hero comes to life in this exceptional series that presents the frustrating reality of learning challenges in a relatable context for kids. This achieves two things: It gives voice to those who experience challenges of their own, and it raises awareness of these kinds of issues for those who aren't affected. In less prominent ways, the stories also reflect how Hank's situation has a ripple effect on those around him, including his friends who stick up for him, his parents who are frequent fliers to the headmaster's office, and his little sister, Emily (Madeline Holliday), who tries to distance herself from the trouble he finds himself in at school.
There are so many positive themes in this series it's almost hard to count. First and foremost, there's Hank's determination not to let his challenges define him or hold him back, but to find new ways to learn and achieve that favor his strengths instead of dwelling on his weaknesses. Also well illustrated is the value of surrounding yourself with and being inspired by people who build you up rather than tear you down. From another vantage point, viewers are encouraged to consider others' unique experiences before judging them. Hank Zipzer is a delight to watch and can spark meaningful discussions with kids about respecting differences and overcoming challenges.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Hank Zipzer's experiences encourage you to think differently about other people's unique challenges and abilities. Is it fair to judge people before, as they say, "walking a mile in their shoes"? On the other hand, are there certain standards that should be universal regardless of our differences?
Hank is inspired by the people in his life who support him without condition. Who plays that role in your life? Why are role models important for our self-esteem? How is Hank himself a role model?
Kids: Do you struggle to deal with peers who tease and/or bully? How do you respond when you experience behavior like this?
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