Beds, Herts & Bucks

Henry 'The Fonz' Winkler encourages dyslexic schoolgirl

Izzy Papworth and Henry Winkler
Image caption Izzy Papworth meets Henry Winkler (Pic: Aylesbury Waterside Theatre)

A 12-year-old would-be star of the stage and screen who battles with dyslexia has received a boost from US actor and writer Henry Winkler who also has the condition.

Izzy Papworth was among 800 pupils from 15 Buckinghamshire schools who listened to Winkler at an event at Aylesbury's Waterside Theatre.

The former star of 70s sitcom Happy Days shared his experiences of struggling with writing and learning scripts.

Izzy, who can only learn by hearing, said the 65-year-old actor was a huge inspiration.

"I can't do it by seeing, it's just impossible," she said.

"It's put a little bit of pressure on me because I want to be an actor and you have to learn all the scripts and stuff, but I can do it."

She said that hearing about the star's experiences had been a "big, big, help".

The secondary school pupil added that while she finds reading, writing and spelling "very difficult", the help she has received is making things easier.

"Teachers know how to deal with it and I get lots more help than I used to, tonnes of help," she said.

'Wonderfully blessed'

Winkler said he struggled at school and did not even know he had the condition until he was in this thirties.

He now wants to let children know that they can achieve, however they learn.

"They all have greatness in them, and how they learn and at what rate they learn has nothing to do with how brilliant they are," he said.

"In the beginning I thought [my learning challenge] would hinder me. In the beginning I didn't know that I could be successful, so that's what I learned and that's what I can pass on. I've had a wonderfully blessed life that continues today.

"I learn my words by going slowly, but for every human being there is another method but - there IS a method.

"You find how to negotiate and how to make friends with your learning challenge instead of letting your learning challenge beat you into the ground. That is what is important."

Izzy Papworth also revealed that she used to get bullied but things have changed.

"My school friends now understand pretty much, they were a bit confused at first but they're alright now."

Winkler hopes that by talking to large groups of children he can also help those who do not have the condition to understand that those who do learn in a different way.

"If you're different it's so easy to be made fun of and it's really important that we take care of each other and then everybody feels better," he said.