Philly’s ‘Traveling Tree House’ hits the streets with free children’s books

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WPVI) – “I have always enjoyed reading,” said High School teacher Leonard Chester. “It just reminds me of my childhood and when I couldn’t stand these books at book fairs.”

Today, Chester ensures that this generation of children will not have to reach into their pockets to read a good book.

The Dobbins High School teacher is also the director of Outreach at Tree House Books, a free library in North Philadelphia dedicated to distributing tens of thousands of books to local children. In 2019, they donated over 81,000 books. But when the COVID-19 pandemic began to take root, the annual total fell to about 50,000.

“Our library could not be opened because of COVID,” said Michael Brix, Executive Director of Tree House Books. “We thought, what is something we could start that will replace it for now, but then we will also have a legacy and be able to live COVID?”

Their answer came in the form of a library. He received the project thanks to donations from the entire community. This morning, Traveling Tree House hosted its first mobile book fair at the Smith Playground.

“We’re really excited to be able to get to neighborhoods and open it up and let kids in and pick up books for free and pick it up and create their own home library,” Brix said.

A home library seems more important than ever, as many Philadelphia children learn at least partially in a remote environment.

“Our kids are not motivated right now,” said Leonard Chester. “Even I as a teacher, you know, miss this personal interaction, because you really know the kids.”

Chester says the Traveling Treehouse is the key to maintaining the literacy engine in Philadelphia.

“Not only will this affect this generation, but it will affect future generations,” he said.

Residents of North Philadelphia can expect the Traveling Treehouse to appear in playgrounds, festivals and more during the spring and summer. To learn more about Tree House Books and the opportunities it offers to children during the pandemic, visit their website.

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