Marlene Sider, the literary enrichment after-school program (LEAP) director at Chestnut Hill Library helps Jenks Academy of Arts and Sciences Elementary School students Elijah Museau, 8, and C.J. Lopez, 12, with their homework. (Photo by Sue Ann Rybak)

by Sue Ann Rybak

Elijah Museau, 8, a student at Jenks Academy of the Arts and Sciences, sat at the table tentatively listening to Marlene Sider, the literary enrichment after-school program (LEAP) director at Chestnut Hill Library, explain his math homework.

Thanks to the Free Library of Philadelphia’s LEAP program, students like Museau can receive free tutoring and help with his homework after school from Monday to Thursday from September to June. Besides providing assistance with homework to students, the program also teaches them computer literacy and library skills.

Museau’s mother Bonnie Wilson-Williams, of Chestnut Hill, said the after-school program is a great resource for parents. Like most parents, Williams sometimes struggles to help her son with his Common Core math homework.

Often the parent-child dynamic will come into play.

“When I try to help him or explain his homework, he gets frustrated,” she said. “The conversation quickly turns into an argument. But if another adult or older teenager explains the homework, he listens.”

Museau said he likes going to the after-school program at the library because “the helpers are really nice and patient.”

Wilson-Williams added that her son enjoys going to the arts and science enrichment programs held on Saturdays. She said he loved making his own terrarium.

“I was surprised that every child got to make their own terrarium,” she said. “I don’t think many people know that the LEAP program is more than just an after-school program. The library is a wonderful place to take your kid during the winter.”

Besides librarians and other staff, the library also employs high school students.

Sider said teen leaders like Markeem Jones not only assist younger students with their homework, but serve as mentors.

“Because the teens are close in age to the LEAP participants and the teens have covered the material themselves in school, they make great connections with the students and offer wonderful perspective,” said the Germantown resident.

Sider added that she loves her job because it allows her to connect with the students and “offer academic expertise along with real-world experience and artistic creativity – a winning combination!”

For more information about the LEAP program or to get emails regarding LEAP Saturday programs, email siderm@freelibrary.org.

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