The 'Traveling Tree House' hits Philly streets with free children's books

PHILADELPHIA -- "I always had a love for reading," said middle school teacher Leonard Chester. "It just reminds me of my childhood, when I couldn't afford those books at the book fairs."

Today, Chester is making sure this generation of children wont need to reach into their pockets to read a good book.

The Dobbins High School teacher is also the Outreach Director at Tree House Books, a free library in North Philadelphia dedicated to distributing tens of thousands of books to area children. In 2019, they donated over 81,000 books. But when the COVID-19 pandemic took root, their yearly total dropped to roughly 50,000.

"Our giving library couldn't be opened because of COVID," said Tree House Books Executive Director Michael Brix. "We thought, what's something that we could start that would replace that for now, but then also have a legacy and be able to outlive COVID?"

Their answer came in the form of a bookmobile. They got the project rolling thanks to donations pouring in from across the community.

Many local organizations donated to the cause, including a small business named Littlebags by Anna. Its founder, Anna Welsh, is a 16-year-old student from Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

"One of our tag lines is that we nurture the planet and the next generation," she mentioned. "So, for each little bag sold, 15% of the proceeds goes to Treehouse Books to really help their initiatives."

Welsh was present at the ribbon-cutting on Treehouse Books new mobile library. She has donated more than $11,000 to placing grade-level books in the hands of Philadelphia children.

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