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Stephen J. Cannell founded The Cannell Studios in Hollywood, which produced nearly 40 television series over the last four decades, including the popular A-Team and 21 Jump Street.

And he had dyslexia.


Cannell struggled in school from an early age. He described himself as “the stupidest kid in class”. He was long scarred by his academic life, and explained how as a child he turned to writing fiction in order to escape the feeling of failure in the classroom.

In an interview, he said: “I was the only kid in my first-grade class who couldn’t read. But [now] I can write a novel in three months.”

He flunked three grades due his undiagnosed dyslexia, and he was told to forget about his dreams of becoming a creative writer. In his high school yearbook, he put “author” as his career ambition, despite all the naysayers.

He persevered with his writing and found he had a real talent for script-writing. He became employed as a scriptwriter at the bottom of the ladder, and climbed his way to the top over the first few years of his Hollywood career. Eventually he set up his own production studio, and was the creative head behind many television hits in the 80s and 90s.

In a 1999 Newsweek interview, he said: “The real fear that I have for dyslexic people is not that they have to struggle with jumbled input or that they can’t spell, but that they will quit on themselves before they get out of school. Parents have to create victories whenever they can, whether it’s music, sports or art. You want your dyslexic child to be able to say: ‘Yeah, reading’s hard. But I have these other things that I can do.’ ”


Sarah Forrest is a Literacy Specialist for the Easyread System, an online course for children with reading difficulties, dyslexia, auditory processing problems and more. Get a free 10-day trial at