“Happy Days” star Henry Winkler is reportedly a truly nice guy, but that’s not what got him his honorary title from Queen Elizabeth II. It was Winkler’s work with children who have dyslexia or other special educational needs that did it.
In 2011, Winkler was named an Honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the honor upon Winkler; then-British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald delivered it.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the British Embassy praised Winkler for spending much of 2010 and 2011 traveling around the United Kingdom speaking out about dyslexia and other learning disabilities.
‘Happy Days’ Star Was Humbled by the Honor
Winkler said the honorary title had left him humbled. He had never set out to win awards by helping children. His goal was merely to offer them the encouragement and support he never got as a child.
“Receiving this honor is a very humbling experience,” Winkler said in a press release. “My goal when I started working with children was never to bring accolades on myself, but instead to change how people think about those around them for whom learning is a struggle.”
The Ambassador presented Winkler with his OBE medal in an investiture ceremony at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. And he managed to work in a sly reference to “Happy Days” while awarding Winkler the medal.
“I am pleased to award this honor on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen,” Ambassador Sheinwald said. “Improving the lives of children is one of the highest acts of good one can pursue, and Mr. Winkler has certainly done that. Through him, thousands of young people have seen a role model and an inspiration for overcoming their learning challenges. Henry Winkler is living proof that difficulties can be overcome and that for those suffering disability and self-doubt, happy days can nevertheless lie ahead.”
Winkler Was Diagnosed with Dyslexia as an Adult
Winkler understands all too well the frustration and low self-esteem that kids with learning difficulties experience. He was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was 31 years old, and he said that explained so much about his childhood.
“I was allergic to school. I was completely befuddled by school,” the actor told The Guardian in 2014. “Did I really have to feel so bad and struggle so much and think I was so stupid for so long? I really feel we have teach children how they learn not what we think they should learn at school.”
While he didn’t read a book all the way through until he was 31, Winkler has gone on to write over 60 books for children with his writing partner, Lin Oliver. And in promoting them, he has continued to call attention to the struggles of kids who face challenges at school.