Happy Days' Henry 'The Fonz' Winkler On Battling With Dyslexia And His Latest British Tour
Henry Winkler, known to many as 'The Fonz' from sitcom Happy Days, is packing his suitcase to embark on his fourth tour of the UK to raise awareness of dyslexia.
The actor has been writing books about the learning disability since 2003, after collaborating with his partner Lin Oliver to create the character Hank Zipzer - a young dyslexic boy who struggles at school. Winkler has published 17 books in total about the boy he calls "the world's greatest underachiever".
Three years ago Winkler joined forces with First News, a weekly newspaper aimed at young children, on a reading tour of schools in Britain and hasn't looked back since.
In an interview with the Huffington Post UK, Winkler explained how his own difficulties as a child at school inspired him to help other children who struggled with the disability.
"Everyone used to always tell me I would never amount to anything. As a child, I found school incredibly difficult. I just didn't understand why the information wouldn't stay in my head. The only thing I was good at was lunch.
"I had real trouble spelling. In fact, I still do", he admits.
Winkler, who was awarded an OBE in September for his work with dyslexic children, is now a figurehead for the My Way campaign, which he co-ordinates with Nicky Cox, the editor of First News.
"We want to give a voice to children who are made fun of because they learn differently to others. So many of the children we visit and talk to are just, well, perplexed", Winkler explains.
"They sit down at home, they learn the words. But then they walk to school and the words fall out on the sidewalk, or as they climb the stairs. The children sit down at their desks to do a test and they just think 'Oh my, I can't remember.' The words have left the building."
"But", he hastens to add, "it's not just dyslexic children we approach. We talk to their classmates, so they understand about dyslexia and why their friend learns differently. And we talk to teachers and suggest ways of dealing with dyslexia."
Winkler described his anguish when he realised that "no-one celebrates the bottom third of children who are allergic to school". His ultimate aim of the campaign therefore, is to make those children feel "fantastic".
"Self-image is the beginning and end of everything", he concludes. "All children have a gift inside them. For some it's just harder to dig that gift out."
According to Winkler, his team have reached 14 million children through the media and touring schools, and show no signs of stopping.
"From the minute I land in the UK to the minute I take off I do nothing but go to schools and go on air to spread the word about dyslexia.'
And does Winkler have any last words of advice?
"The most important thing I can say is no matter how hard it is for you to learn, it does not affect how brilliant you are."