"Mr. Rock was my music teacher who actually said one sentence to me," shared Henry Winkler with a crowd at The Barn at Fearrington. "He said 'Winkler when you get out of here, you're going to be okay.' And I kept that one sentence in my heart like Leo DiCaprio holds onto the wind at the end of that boat movie."
Best known for his role of Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli on the 70s & 80s sitcom Happy Days, Winkler was in town with his co-author Lin Oliver as part of their national tour for Here's Hank: Fake Snakes. The Hank Zipzer series is a chapter book collection for children based on the misadventures of a 4th grade boy. As part of his appearance, Winkler discussed his own challenges with learning -- he was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 30 -- and urged parents and teachers in the audience to connect with children to encourage them to succeed.
"Every single one of you is so powerful and everything you say is so important," he pressed. "And it is so important that if you know a child with a learning challenge, believe me, the kid on his own, on his or her own, knows they're not doing well. They don't need to hear it again. They don't need to be punished again. They need you to buoy their self image. Because when they are ready they will fly if you keep them above water. They will meet their destiny. It's the way the world works."
Waving his hands and speaking staccato to drive a point, he pulled anecdotes from his own children, all three of whom have been diagnosed with dyslexia.
"You look at your child, I look at my children, you know, they're supposed to have a great desk, a good light, and a chair. Max who came running into the bathroom one morning and he said 'Dad, I know that they make corn oil out of corn, how to they make baby oil?' So Max stood at his desk. Put his knee on his chair. Turned on the light and listened to music. And I said, like I was told, 'You can't listen to music while you are doing your homework.' But maybe, the music was a tunnel that allowed you to go through it, concentrate, because the grades were coming home. I learned to shut up. The children know."
(photographs taken at The Barn at Fearrington in Pittsboro)