Nyseem Smith started going to Tree House Books when he was 13.
Smith, a senior marketing major, is now a program manager for the Tree House Books after-school program.
“Within the last two years, I became the program assistant, so I helped with the curriculum and picking out books,” Smith said. “This year is my first year in the program manager position, which is amazing. I love it so far.”
Tree House Books is a used bookstore and literacy center on Susquehanna Avenue near 15th Street that focuses on helping children in the community learn to read and write.
Shantel Richardson, Smith’s mother, said her son is just one of “the branches of the [Tree House Books] family.”
“My son has been here for so many years, that we are basically a part of this family now,” Richardson added. “It makes it feel like more of a community, and that’s actually what Tree House is all about: family, community and togetherness.”
June Bretz, the interim executive director and 1996 international business alumna, and the rest of the leaders at Tree House Books plan to launch additional programs in 2017.
One of the programs launching in 2017 is called “Read with Me” and will consist of weekly gatherings between new guardians or parents-to-be with the youngest members of the Tree House community.
These youngest members currently participate in “Tree House Sprouts,” an early literacy enrichment program for children between the ages of 4 and 6 years old. Through repeated and spoken storytime, the sprouts develop the ability to recognize words and phrases in various texts. Parents and grandparents are welcome to accompany their children so they can read aloud to them.
Tree House Books will also be implementing monthly community gatherings at the store, so children and parents participating in Tree House Books programs can meet one another.
Community resident Catima Purnell started to send her grandson Khyair Hyman to the program this year. She said she is already excited about the idea of monthly family gatherings.
“It would be very cool to see other kids and other kids’ parents and how they interact with their children,” Purnell said.
While the new programs are being planned, Tree House Books is still making strides in bringing families closer and getting kids excited about reading.
Bretz said Tree House Books has always been “family-focused” in its work with the surrounding community.
“We really try to encourage people to come in as a family to get books and read up there together,” Bretz said, while pointing to a lofted section in the corner of the store, which has been designed to look like a tree house.
Richardson’s younger daughter, Amiyah, is currently attending the after-school book camp program. Richardson believes the camp has motivated her daughter to not only read in school, but also with her family members at home.
“She reads every single day, even when we’re walking down the street,” Richardson said. “She reads all the signs and even sounds out each word. Every time I get to hear her read I get so excited.”
Meghan Costa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.