North Central: After-School Program Promotes Literacy in the Community

This event board sits right outside Tree House Books.
This event board sits right outside Tree House Books.

Bernice Bonaparte waited around patiently while the volunteer searched frantically.

Bonaparte’s 9-year-old son wanted to purchase a new book. The young volunteer and the son went to find the book while Bonaparte stood off to the side chatting with another parent.

Bonaparte raved about the positive impact she’d seen in her child since he’d been coming to the after-school program here at Tree House Books.

“My son wants to read books, he wants to buy books–he’s not playing the Wii as much as he used to,” Bonaparte said.

Tree House Books, located on 1430 W. Susquehanna Ave., opens its doors from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday for free after-school tutoring. Young scholars in the North Central neighborhood file in to Tree House to get help with their homework and to indulge in some leisure reading.

The mission at Tree House is to spark interest in reading and literacy among the local residents, and with children like Bonaparte’s son–a former video-game lover who has made three recent book purchases–it proved successful.

Bookshelves and the "Concentration Room" are just part of the Tree House.

Bookshelves stretching from the floor to the ceiling line the walls, and books on every topic imaginable fill the shelves. In the far right corner sits a makeshift tree house–the “Concentration Room”–where readers could curl up next to a book. What started out as an initiative for a community bookstore turned into something much greater.

“[The Tree House] helps us out a lot because we work,” Bonaparte said. “By the time we get off–we want to help him the best we can–but sometimes you’re so tired and worn out. So now he does his homework by himself because he gets the help from [Tree House volunteers].”

The Tree House volunteers meet after the children leave.

Tree House relies heavily on its volunteers, like Becky Tokar, 20, in order to meet the needs of all the children within its walls. Tokar, an art education major at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, found out about Tree House through one of her course offerings.

“I had a few different [after-school programs] to pick from. But I liked [Tree House’s] the best because it starts at the youngest stage. Kids at that stage are like sponges and they just soak up everything you teach them,” Tokar said. “And I feel like it makes a greater impression to start with younger kids. It’s a little bit harder because [younger children] are harder to keep focused but it’s more beneficial in the long run.”

1 Comment

  1. It’s really nice to hear such positive words. In particular “less time on the Wii” and “My son wants to read books. It sounds like the program is doing a great job! I’ve taught in the inner-city my entire career. I truly value programs such as the one described.

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