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The story behind Henry Winkler’s 29 children’s books

Henry Winkler, who was propelled to fame as leather-wearing tough guy Fonzie on the hit 1970s show “Happy Days,” had one of the biggest surprise hits at the American Magazine Media powwow on Tuesday.

After the long-running ABC hit ended, he starred in “The Waterboy” and several other movies with Adam Sandler. Last year, Winkler won his first ever Primetime Emmy for his role as Gene Cousineau in the HBO hit “Barry.”

But when Winkler was asked about his most satisfying accomplishment, he said that, aside from family, it was writing children’s books.

And it almost didn’t happen.

He recalled that originally, his literary agent, Esther Newberg, told him she didn’t do children’s books. She sent out five proposals — only one said yes, but he’s since gone on to publish 29 books.

It was no easy journey. Winkler explained that when his stepson, Jed Weitzman, was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 7, he realized that all the symptoms also applied to him — meaning he learned at the age of 31, long after he struggled through school, that he was dyslexic.

The type on the his Hank Zipzer books is surprisingly called “dyslexia” font, and was created by a dyslexic designer in Holland who also had dyslexic children and wanted to make it in a style they could read. “The typeface is just a miracle,” Winkler said.

Winkler got a little choked up as he read an excerpt from the book about a dyslexic fourth grader who finally was featured as the star student on the grade school’s bulletin board.

“It’s easy for me, at 73 years old, to channel the 10-year-old who was failing,” explained Winkler. “I tell every child I meet, how you learn has nothing to do with how great you are.”

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