By KYW Newsradio community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Culture. Self. Countries around the world.

Those are just a few of the topics students explore during the after-school program at Tree House Books, at 1430 W. Susquehanna Avenue in North Philadelphia.

For the past seven years, Michael Roberson Reid has led the small nonprofit Tree House Books, which offers reading and cultural literacy programs to kids ages six to 12.

“Even though I would classify myself as a nerd, if I saw a kid reading all the time I (used to) call them a nerd,” says Reid.  “But in hindsight, I am so happy there are so many young people who truly love reading.  I think it’s so important for children to be in a community of readers.”

 

(Tree House volunteers work with students at one of their after-school programs. Photo by Cherri Gregg)

(Tree House volunteers work with students at one of their after-school programs. Photo by Cherri Gregg)

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Reid grew up in the suburbs in California and attended private schools.  He moved to Philadelphia to study acting at the University of the Arts.

“The concept of the struggling black person, I honestly didn’t see it growing up,” Reid admits, “and I think that’s how it should be for everyone.”

Reid started at Tree House Books as a volunteer, and was eventually invited to run the organization as its executive director.  But his love affair with reading began years earlier, after watching Spike Lee’s movie Malcolm X on the big screen.

“I would wonder, how did he start off as one person and end up as another person?” Reid recalls, noting that he would stare at photos of the civil rights leader for hours.  “That that sort of planted a seed of curiosity.”

Hear the extended interview with Michael Roberson Reid in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 14:16)…

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Reid says he believes all young people can grow, develop, and excel through literacy, and it’s that belief that compels him to put books into the hands of more children.   One of the ways Tree House books accomplishes this goal is through a program called “Words on Wheels,” which uses volunteers on bicycles to deliver books to children.

“During the 2014 summer, we delivered to 250 children,” says Reid.  “The goal in 2015 is to deliver to 750.”  Changing the game, one reader at a time.

“Having a rigorous relationship with books and reading and learning, you uncover things about yourself,” says Reid.  “Most of the life lessons I’ve learned, I’ve learned through books.”

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