North Philly’s Tree House Books to add after school programs, other events ahead of the new school year
The organization has big plans heading towards the new school year.
Tree House Books in North Philadelphia has been donating books to children for over 15 years, leading them on the path to literacy. However, in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, its library had to close under government ruling.
The decision was painful, but the closure led them to create a mobile library called, Words on Wheels, which has since become a smash hit for Philly youth
With the pandemic slowing down (for now), Michael Brix, the executive director at Tree House Books, is planning a major comeback with the potential for an even brighter future for the program.
The center is planning on having its regular Fall schedule and also add two more new programs — something Brix has been planning for quite some time.
“We're gonna restart our after school program because we are anticipating our kids going back to school full time,” Brix said in a recent interview with AL DÍA News. “We have two new programs for middle school and high school students that'll take place in the Fall.”
One new literacy program will be a book club aimed for young women. A leadership program is also in the works for kids who are aging out of Tree House. The goal is to give them some leadership skills and training.
“We will be able to work with them so they can work in our library, it'll give them an opportunity to give them a little bit of a stipend,” said Brix.
In response to the pandemic, Brix and his staff created many alternatives to get more children involved with the organization in a safe way.
Their Traveling Treehouse along with Words on Wheels, made a major impact in Philadelphia by traveling to kids homes and delivering books. There are about 150 children involved in the program.
The Traveling Treehouse van has also recently been a part of many events, including rec centers and daycares.
“All of these kids enjoy reading and writing and all of the cultural exploration that they do, it definitely makes them more interested in learning about how they intersect with the world around them,” said Brix.
Tree House has also been a community hub for children since the pandemic, and have turned their library into equity pods. The plan was to give more children access to the internet so they could do their homework. They provided in-person learning last school year every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with distanced tutoring and after school learning on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Their summer program is a full day camp, which provides many creative outlets and reading.
“We also take a lot of field trips and do usual fun Summer activities,” said Brix.
So far, through Tree House, children have been to The Wagner Science Institute and Wonderspaces Art Show.
“We had the clay mobile come out and do some clay work with the kids. It's just a bunch of fun and educational things for the kids,” he said.
Brix also said that children involved in his Summer program have the opportunity to use their imaginations by writing descriptive stories, plays, and poetry.
“It's just in service to the theme for the week, so this week is science week, we had a lot of kids writing their own hypothesis and doing different things,” he said.
Brix and his staff are looking forward to the school year and are excited to meet other children who will be a part of their after school program.
Residents can support Tree House by running book drives.
“We are always looking for people to run book drives for them,” he said. “In a typical year we give away as many as 80,000 books betweens all of our programs.”
For more information on Tree House Books, please visit its website.
This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.