He didn’t read a book until he was 31, then a diagnosis led him to inspire kids with similar struggles

Henry Winkler’s path to success was not easy. He struggled in school, facing harsh punishment and name-calling from his parents, which affected his confidence. It was decades later that he discovered his struggles were due to dyslexia, a revelation he now uses to inspire others, especially children.

Winkler’s parents had high educational expectations, but he found school extremely difficult. “My parents thought I was lazy. I was called lazy and stupid,” Winkler shared with The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. Despite trying his best, he was often punished, missing out on school activities.

High school was challenging, but Winkler persevered, eventually graduating with an MFA from Yale University. Post-graduation, reading scripts remained a hurdle. “I improvised because I could not read anything the way it was written,” he admitted. His talent and determination led to his iconic role as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli in “Happy Days,” despite ongoing struggles with reading during table reads.

It wasn’t until his stepson was diagnosed with a learning disability that Winkler realized he too might have dyslexia. At 31, he was officially diagnosed. “I didn’t read a book until I was 31 years old when I was diagnosed with dyslexia,” Winkler revealed. The diagnosis brought anger, reflecting on the needless arguments and punishments from his childhood.

Determined to turn his diagnosis into something positive, Winkler wrote a children’s series about Hank Zipzer, a boy with dyslexia. His books have resonated with many, and Winkler responds to every child’s letter, encouraging them not to let their learning challenges stop them from achieving their dreams.

Despite his ongoing struggles, Winkler has found success in Hollywood and as an author. His memoir, set to be released in 2024, will further share his inspirational journey. Outside of his family, Winkler considers his books his proudest achievement.

Henry Winkler is a true inspiration, showing that perseverance and self-belief can overcome any challenge.

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