The Fonz given honorary OBE for education work

By Jessica Elgot, September 15, 2011
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Henry Winkler as the Fonz

Henry Winkler as the Fonz

Happy Days actor Henry Winkler has been awarded an honorary OBE for his work with dyslexic children and special educational needs.

Mr Winkler, 65, was the leather-wearing rebel "The Fonz" in the US TV series Happy Days, but has also written 17 books for children featuring Hank Zipcer, a boy with dyslexia.

He received his award at the British Embassy in Washington. Recently, Mr Winkler has been touring British schools, including Akiva school in Finchley, talking about dealing with dyslexia.

It wasn't only at school that Mr Winkler struggled. He told the JC in January 2010 that he had struggled to learn his barmitzvah portion. "I had to learn my Torah portion in transliteration. There was no way my brain could read or decipher Hebrew. I couldn't read English, let alone my heritage's ancient language. I memorised it after months of study and as the cantor used the yad pointing to each word of my portion, I pretended to read as I sang."

Mr Winkler, whose parents escaped from Nazi Germany, has always spoken with pride about his Jewish heritage. "I love how tenacious our people are. For over 5,000 years people have tried to eradicate the state of Israel and the state of mind of Jews and we are still here contributing in every way to societies all over the globe."

After rec e iving his award, Mr Winkler said: "Receiving this honour is a very humbling experience.

"My goal when I started working with children was never to bring accolades on myself, but instead to change how people think about those around them for whom learning is a struggle.

"I am flattered to have had my work recognised in this manner, and hope to continue showing kids that their learning difficulty isn't a disability."

Last updated: 11:30am, September 15 2011