While Henry Winkler might be best known for his role as Fonzie on “Happy Days,” did you know he’s also a successful children’s book author?
Back in 2003, Winkler co-wrote the first book in the Hank Zipzer series along with Lin Oliver. The middle-grade series follows “underachiever” Hank as he struggles to get through school. Though he’s a “bright boy,” he also struggles with “learning challenges,” such as dyslexia. According to the publisher, Winkler based the story on his own experiences, after his “undiagnosed dyslexia made him a classic childhood underachiever.”
Almost 20 years later, Winkler and Oliver continue to add books to the Hank Zipzer series. And kids who weren’t even born when the first book came out are just discovering it now.
One dad reached out to the “Happy Days” alum on Twitter to thank him for making such a character and such a story.
“@hwinkler4real my son loved the #hankzipzer books and has been asking to make enchiladas forever. Today was finally the day! Thank you for the inspiration and for making a character like Hank we could identify with,” user Mitch Rotter said. “Holy Enchiladas!” is one of the more iconic books in the Hank Zipzer series.
Winkler quote tweeted the message and captioned it, “Master Rotter! You are the coolest.”
“Happy Days” Star Henry Winkler Describes His Own Experience With Dyslexia
Just over two years ago, “Happy Days” star Henry Winkler opened up to NPR about learning to live with dyslexia. The now-75-year-old didn’t even realize he had it until he was 31. When Winkler took his stepson to get tested, he realized, “”Oh my goodness, that’s me.'”
“I thought I was stupid … You take that mantle with you when it’s said often enough and when you’re young enough,” Winkler said. “There is an emotional component, I think, that comes along with learning challenges, where I had no sense of self.”
But after taking his stepson to get tested, Winkler realized, “I wasn’t stupid, that I wasn’t lazy — that I had something with a name.”
Winkler’s dyslexia even affected his acting when he first started out. He resorted to intense memorization and improvisation to make up for his struggling reading skills.
“I would memorize as quickly as I could because I couldn’t read the page and act at the same time to make an impression on the casting person or on the director and the producers,” the “Happy Days” star said. “And I improvised the rest. And when they said, ‘Well you’re not doing what’s written on the page,’ I said, ‘I’m giving you the essence of the character.’ “
This even occurred on the set of “Happy Days.” Winkler would sit down with the cast for table-reads and dread it. “I was embarrassed for 10 years because I could not read what was on the page. So I used humor to cover all those mistakes for all those years. I didn’t know that I had something wrong, so I just tripped over words and everybody just kind of tolerated it.”