Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


May 8, 2008

Dyslexia and the children's book: Henry Winkler's hero finds unique solutions to school problems


Hank has perseverance. I believe perseverance is a cornerstone for living.

Whenever I speak, my theme is a quote from Theodor Herzl — I think he said this in 1946 — "If you will it, it is not a dream." I repeat that over and over again.

How does Hank's character connect with readers who have dyslexia or learning disabilities themselves?

It somehow connects with Asperger's syndrome, also high-functioning autistic kids. They've stopped me on the street (to talk about the books). They can clearly see in their mind's eye how Hank feels. That is one of the magnets of the book.

The emotion, the frustration, the trying to figure out how to solve the problems is very real. We have all lived it. The humor is exaggerated.

How did you discover you had dyslexia at age 31?

We took my stepson, Jed, to see the Hopi nation in Arizona because he was studying it for school.

He is unbelievably verbal, but could only write two sentences about our trip. I started in with all the things my parents used to say to me — "Go to your room," and all that.

We had him tested for dyslexia, and everything they said about him was true about me. I had never heard of dyslexia before that. If I bought a piece of pizza, and paid with paper money, had no idea if the change they gave me back was right. That was through my 20s and 30s.

Now, I read thrillers (novels) and I've taught myself to speed read. But reading out loud is still out of the question. I invented the concept of stumbling!

What comes through with Hank is that tenacity. That there is more than one way to solve a problem, and you can come out the other side by using your gifts.

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