Henry Winkler has shared a lot about his dyslexia. He’s also the author of a series of children’s books featuring Hank Zipzer, a boy with dyslexia. And on January 22, Winkler provided an even deeper look at his struggles with dyslexia in a CBS TV interview.
Winkler, who played the iconic role of the Fonz on Happy Days, opened up about how he could barely read growing up.
“It was scary,” he said in the interview. “I learned to memorize as much as I could from any page and then improvise.”
He used his improvisation skills to get into the Yale School of Drama, auditioning with a monologue. That was after he “managed to get through” Emerson College, one of the two colleges that accepted him (he applied to 28).
Reading was so difficult for Winkler that he didn’t read a book until he was 31. He also struggled with motor skills, he said in the interview. As a result, he had a hard time riding a motorcycle on Happy Days.
Winkler’s parents, Jewish immigrants who escaped Nazi Germany right before World War II, weren’t easy on him. They teased him with the name “Dummer Hund,” or “Dumb Dog” in German, he recalls.
“They were convinced that I was lazy, that I was not living up to my potential,” he shared. “Teachers said the same thing. So I was grounded most of my high school career.”
Like many other celebrities with learning and thinking differences, Winkler achieved success. He says what made a difference was his “patience” and “tenacity.”
“You learn that where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said.
Watch the full CBS interview with Henry Winkler below.
Read about the importance of resilience for kids with dyslexia. See what kids with dyslexia can say to self-advocate in grade school and middle school. And explore a collection of dyslexia success stories, including stories about Anderson Cooper and Salma Hayek.
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