BATAVIA – Students at H.C. Storm Elementary welcomed a special guest to their Batavia school Friday: TV icon Henry Winkler, who encouraged them to find the greatness within them.
“The world needs every bit of your greatness,” the actor said.
Winkler – who is best known for his role as the Fonz on “Happy Days” – also co-authors a children’s book series with Lin Oliver that was inspired by his own learning challenges with dyslexia.
The authors’ visit was made possible through the school’s relationship with Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, faculty said.
The authors spoke about their decadelong collaboration and said they get letters from kids who could relate to their Hank Zipzer series. The kids, Oliver said, ask her and Winkler how they know them so well.
“You write what you know,” Winkler said. “Write from your heart.”
When he was their age, Winkler told the students that he had difficulty with several subjects, including reading, spelling and math.
At age 31, he learned that he wasn’t stupid or lazy, he said. He learned he is dyslexic.
“I had something with a name,” Winkler said.
He told the students each one of them has greatness inside them, and learning challenges have nothing to do with how brilliant they are.
He asked the children to say what they’re great at and got such answers as soccer, homework and math.
“I’ve never been great at math,” Winkler said.
After reading from two of his and Oliver’s books, Winkler took questions from students, who asked him about such topics as why he wanted to act and whether he still had his iconic leather jacket from “Happy Days.”
Winkler – whose father wanted him to take over his business of buying and selling wood – didn’t know why he wanted to be an actor, he said.
“I just know it was in me,” he said.
As for the Fonz’s jacket? That’s in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
“Something I wore is in a museum,” Winkler said. “That is amazing.”
A 7-year-old boy had a different type of question for Winkler: Did he still have the power to attract women?
“Ladies, watch out,” Winkler said. “This is a man after my own heart.”