A duo of authors including the man best known as the Fonz on the 1970s TV show "Happy Days" used a Children's Literature Breakfast on Saturday in Woodridge to promote the release of their latest books, which feature a font designed to make reading easier for people with dyslexia.
The first two installments in the "Here's Hank" series by Henry Winkler and his writing partner Lin Oliver describe the adventures of a character based on a young Winkler before the boy appears in the popular "Hank Zipzer" books.
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Winkler discussed "Bookmarks are People Too" and "A Short Tale about a Long Dog," which he said are the latest steps in his efforts to write "from the heart" and use stories from his youthful struggles with undiagnosed dyslexia to teach children with learning difficulties they truly are "brilliant."
"I was told I would never amount to much. I would never achieve," Winkler said. "When a child is young and trying to figure it out and confused, they need support."
Before his presentation, Winkler posed for photos with fans, many of whom said they remembered him as the "Happy Days" actor in a leather jacket with perfect hair.
But most of the librarians, teachers and book lovers in the crowd of more than 500 at the annual breakfast sponsored by Naperville-based Anderson's Bookshop attended the event to learn about new books from a variety of authors.
Winkler told them "Here's Hank" features the same resourceful, funny and optimistic character from "Hank Zipzer," but as a second-grader before he is diagnosed with dyslexia.
"Hank has his glass half-full -- he just spills it everywhere," Winkler said.
After he and Oliver wrote the first two books for the new series, Winkler said publishers told him it would be printed in a special typeface that aims to make reading easier for people with dyslexia, a condition in which the brain jumbles up letters and words.
"It is the first time in America that this font is being used, and it's being used in 'Here's Hank,'" Winkler said Saturday.
Becky Anderson, owner of Anderson's Bookshop, told the crowd she is impressed by Winkler's passion for giving kids with learning difficulties an example of success through his writing.
"I think he is the most proud of what he has done with these books and reaching kids and reluctant readers and people with learning difficulties," Anderson said.
Oliver, who is co-founder and executive director of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, said she and Winkler strive to write books that provide laughter, portray friendship and empathy, promote uniqueness and nonconformity, and speak the truth from their hearts.
The result, Winkler says, is a series of books that often gets the response "how do you know me so well?" from kids who are dyslexic. Kids can spot authenticity when they read it, he says, and he's hoping they'll find it in his new series.
"Kids are relating to a hero who has a learning challenge," Oliver said.