May 18 2013 Latest news:
Friday, March 8, 2013
It was happy days for youngsters at a Norwich school as a rather cool guest joined them for class.
To many of us, he will always be known as The Fonz, the king of cool in the 1970s sitcom Happy Days, but these days Henry Winkler, 67, is a children’s book author and a champion of raising awareness about the difficulties with learning some children face.
And as part of his First News My Way UK! tour, Mr Winkler dropped into Angel Road Junior School yesterday where he opened their new library and spoke with some of the pupils, before inspiring the whole school in an assembly where he spoke about his experience of coping with the learning difficulty dyslexia, and about how it was so important for people to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.
In the library, pupils had a great time chatting with Mr Winkler about books, birthdays, and that his favourite sandwich as a child was tuna mayonnaise and ketchup.
When one of the children asked him what it was like to play The Fonz, he joked: “The who? Oh yes I remember him. The Fonz. I loved it because, you know what happened is, I changed my body, I changed my clothes, I changed my hair, I changed my voice, and all of a sudden I started to sound like this, like ‘aaay!’”
He added: “It was like it unlocked my imagination, all of these things let me create this character that has now been around a long time and still people enjoy him on YouTube and re-runs. I am very proud of him.”
But he told the children that what he was most proud of was writing his Hank Zipzer and Ghost Buddy children’s books.
“I loved acting. I wanted to be an actor since I was your age, but I am proudest of the books and that they make children laugh. That makes me really happy. I think laughter is really important.”
He added that he was very impressed with the school’s new library.
“What is interesting is that when I was your age I never went into a library. I was too frightened because I could not read well. Now I love libraries and here we are on March 7, 2013 and I am opening a library, and then I get to talk to the students at Angel Road Junior School and that makes me happy. I think that might be one of the great things that I get to do in my life, that I get to chat to students, no kidding, it’s true, really, it’s better than being a celebrity.”
Mr Winkler received a huge cheer from the whole school when he went into the assembly, and he enthralled both the staff and pupils with a talk full of jokes but also with an inspiring message, before reading passages from two of his books.
“Maths was hard, science was hard, reading was hard, spelling was out of the question. I was great at lunch,” he joked about his time at school, adding that it was not until he was much older that he was diagnosed with dyslexia.
“At 31 I found out I wasn’t stupid, I wasn’t lazy, I had a learning challenge. I had dyslexia,” he said.
“How you learn is nothing to do with how brilliant you are.
“I was told I would never achieve, and I have written 23 novels with my partner and I have acted like I dreamed of doing.”
Afterwards pupils queued up for Mr Winkler to sign copies of his Hank Zipzer and Ghost Buddy books, showing it was clear that the actor loved by millions for his role as the legendary Fonz now most definitely has a new – and much younger – army of fans inspired by his writing.
Speaking about Henry Winkler’s visit, Angel Road headteacher Len Holman said: “It was absolutely amazing. We had invested lots of hard work and money in the library, and when we heard Henry could come to the opening we were totally amazed. He has just brought a whole new dimension to the library opening and raised the whole expectation and excitement.
“It was just fantastic.”
Year six pupil George Hudson, 11, said: “My mum was really excited when I told her and she wanted to come to school instead of me!
“I think it is really amazing that he has done all this stuff even though he has got learning disabilities.”
Year five pupil Molly Payne, nine, said: “I think it is amazing. I had no idea who he was but then I asked my mum and she said that he was The Fonz in Happy Days so then I was really excited because she showed me him on YouTube and I basically loved his character.
“I think it is really cool that he has come in, and I think it is amazing because he has got dyslexia and he has managed to act and write books.”