Let’s play guess who!
“Known for being especially cool and for his catchphrases “Eyyyy!” and “Whoa!”, his coolness gave him special powers, such as making machinery function by pounding his fist, or getting the attention of girls by snapping his fingers.”
Do you give up?
It’s the Fonz of course, from 1970s TV show Happy Days. Henry Winkler, who played the Fonz for 255 episodes, was much loved by viewers around the world. Recently, Winkler has been travelling globally on a different kind of mission: to spread the word about dyslexia.
After a successful career as an actor, director and producer, Winkler has turned his attention to a cause which is very close to home. As a child, he struggled throughout many years of schooling.
“When I was growing up, no one knew what learning challenges were. So I was called ‘stupid’, ‘lazy’, and ‘not living up to my potential”. He describes feeling like his true self – his capable, smart, and funny self – was hidden from others, who could only see his struggles. Even his areas of strength were compromised by his reading issues. He wanted to be an actor at a young age, but was prohibited from participating in school performances because of his low marks in school.
‘English was hard,’ he says. ‘Maths was hard. Spelling was out of the question — the words used to just jump across the page. History was hard. Science was hard. I was great at lunch!”
Winkler had one adult in his life, his music teacher, who believed in him. He encouraged Winkler to pursue his dreams, and not listen to the criticism of others. Winkler went on to university in Boston, followed by a degree from the prestigious Yale School of Drama.
“My problems with learning have affected my whole life”, he wrote. “You can’t act if you can’t read a script!” Winkler describes being famous on the set for ad-libbing and joking, which he reveals was a tactic to cover up his difficulty reading the words on the page.
Interestingly, he didn’t actually receive a formal dyslexia diagnosis until the age of 31, when his stepson Jed was undergoing testing for a learning disability.
Now he is likely the most famous celebrity who champions the cause of helping learning-challenged kids.
Sarah Forrest is a Program Coach for Easyread, an online phonics course designed to teach learning-challenged kids how to read and spell.