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Monday, May 21, 2007

My funny bone fell out: The Fonz and undiagnosed dyslexia

He says he doesn’t blog, because he can’t spell. But he did send email for the first time, in desperation. It takes him about two and a half months to write a children’s book.

Life has changed a lot for 61-year old Henry Winkler, who played The Fonz in the long-running TV show, "Happy Days."

He’s now on a book tour for his 11th children’s book in a series about the fourth-grade boy "Hank Zipzer," who is based loosely on his own childhood, growing up with undiagnosed dyslexia. He calls Hank "the world’s greatest underachiever," mirroring his own struggles as a student.

At Hank’s age, Henry still could not read. With Hank, "the emotion is real; the frustration and arguments are real. The humor is exaggerated," he says. A young fan in Missouri wrote that he laughed so hard at Hank’s adventures that "my funny bone fell out of my body!"

Henry overcame his learning differences and received a Master of Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama before his 11-year run on Happy Days. He is also a founding member of the Children’s Action Network, a nonprofit that sponsors briefings for writers, producers and directors on children’s issues.

Henry says becoming an actor was the only way he could express himself "because I wasn’t confident enough to express myself through other methods." He is grateful that "every day, some sort of my dream comes through, in the way of writing, producing or directing. A lesson for my readers is that there is no limit to what they can do. They may believe that they’re stupid, that they’re limited. But really, it’s just that they learn differently. I want them to know their dreams aren’t impossible."

Advice to people with dyslexia: If you will it, it is no dream.

Read another of our celebrity patient advocate stories, or read
Susan Kalan’s source story

1 comment:

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