TV legend Henry Winkler has been ensuring Happy Days for school children in the North East after rocking up in their classroom.
The too-cool-for-school ‘70s sitcom icon – who starred as The Fonz – attracted the excitement of pupils, parents and staff alike with his appearance at the Newcastle primary school.
While seven-year-olds queued to have their copy of the author’s latest book signed, staff and parents took in memorabilia, posters and even the odd denim jacket for the star to sign.Related content
Along with the usual maths and English, pupils in Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 at Atkinson Road Primary School have seen a recent addition to their curriculum.
Head teacher Andrea O’Neill said: “Having Henry come to school has created a real buzz about the place. We’ve been showing the children old episodes of Happy Days and learning the words to the theme tune twice a day every day for the past week.
“It has been truly inspiring for our children, many who struggle with their reading as do some parents, to have him here. He said himself if you have confidence and believe in yourself you can tackle anything and achieve your dreams.
“The assembly was for children in Year 3 and above but we had parents from all years come in, for a lot of dads he was a hero when they were younger.”
After the motivational assembly yesterday schoolchildren treated Henry to their rendition of the Happy Days theme song complete with “oh happy days” from the teachers.
With his TV roots never far from him Henry said: “It made my day to hear Happy Days. I loved doing that show, it was a great time for me.”
The Fonz was visiting the city on a whistle-stop tour this March speaking to schools about the needs of children with learning difficulties with his First News My Campaign.
Working in partnership with Achievements for All, Henry, now a million-selling children’s author, talked to them about growing up with dyslexia.
He said: “At school I had great trouble reading and writing and with maths. You never grow out of dyslexia but you learn to negotiate it. It is important to recognise that one in five children in the UK have some sort of learning difficultly and it is important for children to know you can still achieve great things if you dream and believe in yourself.”
Crowds of children snaked through the school’s main dining hall wanting Henry to sign their copies of his book series, Hank Zipzer the World’s Greatest Underachiever, about a boy with dyslexia, which is soon to be made into a drama series on the BBC.
Henry added: “I never thought I could help children become interesting in reading by writing these books. I just started writing and this is what happened. You never start something knowing exactly how it will turn out.
“School was unbelievably hard for me. Teachers didn’t know what dyslexia was at that time. I got a bad grade in everything but lunch.
“I was told I was stupid, lazy and not living up to my potential most of my life and when you’re younger and you’re told that you believe it. Just because we learn differently doesn’t mean we are not incredibly smart human beings. That’s something I need every child to understand.”
Having kicked off at Downing Street, the First News My Way campaign will tour schools across the UK.
An actor and children's writer
Henry Winkler will forever be remembered by many as Happy Days’ cool teenager Arthur Fonzarelli aka The Fonz. In the 1970s and 1980s he starred in the hit US show about life in the 1950s and went on to win two Golden Globes for Best Actor.
He went on to produce TV sitcoms including the popular MacGyver and later appeared in horror franchise Scream in 1996 and comedy The Water Boy in 1998.
In 1999 he didn’t let his dyslexia hold him back when playwright Neil Simon asked him to read for his play, The Dinner Party. Asking for the script early Henry read it every day and went on to star in the play during its stint on Broadway.
In 2002 he teamed up with co-author Nicky Cox to pen his children’s book series Hank Zipzer the World’s Greatest Underachiever. With 17 in the series more than three million copies have sold in the US alone.
In 2011 Henry was awarded an OBE in recognition of the work he does for children with learning difficulties.