He Never Read a Book Until 31—What Happened Next Will Shock You!

 Henry Winkler’s path to success wasn’t easy. In school, he struggled a lot, which led to harsh punishments from his parents. Their constant criticism and name-calling hurt his confidence deeply, and he promised himself he would never treat his own children that way.

Decades later, Henry found out there was a reason for his struggles in school: he had a learning disability. Understanding this made him realize how much it had held him back. Wanting to help others, especially children, he decided to use his diagnosis to inspire them and show that they can succeed despite their challenges.


Henry Winkler is a well-known and accomplished actor, but his success didn’t come easily. He had to work extremely hard for everything he achieved, starting from when he was just a child.

From a young age, Winkler faced high expectations, especially regarding his education. “My parents were very, very, very, very, very short Jews from Germany,” Winkler told The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. “They believed in education. They thought I was lazy. I was called lazy. I was called stupid. I was told I was not living up to my potential.”

Despite what his parents believed, Winkler knew he was trying his hardest. He didn’t want to be seen as stupid and was determined to prove them wrong.

Even though he tried everything he could, Winkler found school extremely difficult. This led to frequent punishments from his parents, who thought grounding him for long periods would make him improve. Because of this, he missed out on school dances and plays.

“I was grounded for most of my high school career. They thought if I stayed at my desk for 6 weeks at a time, I was going to get it and they were just going to put an end to the silliness of my laziness. That was going to be that,” Winkler recalled.

Despite these challenges, Winkler persevered and eventually discovered the reason for his struggles, which motivated him to help others facing similar difficulties.


Despite facing difficulties in high school, Henry Winkler achieved something remarkable: he graduated with a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from Yale University.

However, after graduation, Winkler encountered new challenges. Reading scripts was tough for him. “You learn to negotiate with your learning challenge. I improvised. I never read anything the way that it was written in my entire life,” he explained.

Winkler found a unique way to cope with this challenge. “I could instantly memorize a lot of it and then what I didn’t know, I made up and threw caution to the wind and did it with conviction and sometimes I made them laugh and sometimes I got hired,” he said.

Even after landing his iconic role as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli in Happy Days, Winkler still struggled during table reads. “When we did Happy Days, I embarrassed myself for 10 years reading around that table with the producers, the other actors, the director, all of the department heads. On Monday morning, we read the scripts. I stumbled over every word. I was completely embarrassed. Memorizing, if it’s written well, my brain is then able to suck it up like a vacuum cleaner.”

Despite these challenges, Winkler’s determination and unique approach to acting helped him succeed and become a beloved figure in television history.


It wasn’t until his stepson began struggling in school and was tested for a learning disability that Winkler considered he too might have dyslexia.

“I went, ‘Oh my goodness. I have something with a name.’ That was when I first got it.”

Winkler was 31 years old at the time.

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“I didn’t read a book until I was 31 years old when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Books terrified me. They made me nervous,” he said.

After learning his struggles with reading were due to a learning disability, Winkler became angry.

“I got very angry. Because all of the arguments in my house with the short Germans who were my parents were for naught. All of the grounding was for naught.”

But then he used his diagnosis to inspire others, especially children, and he did it by writing a children’s series featuring a boy named Hank, an elementary school student with dyslexia.

The series has connected with many as Winkler said he often receives letters from children.

“Every child who writes me a letter about Hank Zipzer, I write back. In every letter I include, ‘your learning challenge will not stop you from meeting your dream. Only you will stop yourself from meeting your dream.’”

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While he still struggles with his learning challenge, Winkler has gone on to achieve much success. In addition to winning numerous awards for his Hollywood career, he has written several books, and it was just recently announced his memoir would be released in 2024.

Even though he has accomplished so much, he said, “Outside of my family, my proudest moment, no matter what I have achieved, are the books.”

Henry Winkler is an inspiration. Imagine constantly being put down by your parents because you weren’t as successful as they would have liked, only to later learn you had dyslexia.

I’m so glad he was able to overcome his challenges and be an inspiration for others who share similar struggles.

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