The boys had read I Got a “D” in Salami, the second book in the Hank Zipzer series, written by Lin Oliver and Winkler, best known for his role as ‘The Fonz’ in the American TV sitcom Happy Days, whichran from 1974 to ’84. Most recently, he has played roles in various television series, including Arrested Development, Barry and Guardians of the Galaxy.
The book series centres around the protagonist Hank, who has dyslexia, like Winkler, who has struggled with it throughout his life.
In this book, Hank gets his first Grade 4 report card and decides he has to get rid of the document before his parents see it. He gives it to a friend to destroy, who puts it in a batch of salami that his mother is making for the head of a supermarket chain at the family deli.
When she picks that batch of salami to send, Hank and his friends try to put a stop to the delivery and it is during this journey that he figures out he has learning problems.
All of the students at James Cameron have dyslexia.
Simi Pillay, Grade 5 teacher at James Cameron, asked his students, after they had read the book, if they wanted to reach out to the actor and tell him what they thought of it.
“Dear Mr. Henry Winkler. Hank Zipzer 2 is a good book. I like the jokes and puns. Zip is funny and he reminds me of me,” read one student’s letter.
“Dear Henry. I liked your book because it was funny. I feel it was encouraging and motivated me to try harder,” read another.
One more read: “If I had to be realistic about the book, it was good. The message is great and funny, like me at home. You inspire me and others around you.”
The letters were mailed to Winkler at the beginning of May.
When Penny Shepherd-Hill, principal of James Cameron School, checked the mail on the final day of school, she found an envelope containing the actor’s replies.
All the letters are the same. They describe how, after 10 years of writing with Oliver, how finishing 32 Hank Zipzer novels, was something Winkler thought he would never achieve because school was so difficult for him.
But, the letter read, what he learned was that “no matter how you learn, you are still brilliant.”
He thanked each student for sending a “smart and thoughtful letter.”
Each reply is addressed personally to the students and includes words of encouragement, such as “You are great” and “You are smart,” hand-written on the bottom of the page.
“It’s a real personal inspiration to our kids who struggle with reading and writing like Henry,” said Shepherd-Hill.
She added that it is encouraging for the boys to realize that somebody so successful once struggled like them in school.