ABC7 Unite: Harlem toy store combines fun and education for kids

HARLEM, New York (WABC) -- A toy store and literacy center in Harlem is providing invaluable resources to children and parents amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 shutdown put a temporary pause on the delight and joy that have brightened the faces of Harlem kids entering Grandma's Place for more than two decades.

"During the pandemic when the store was closed, I would come out to put my garbage out, I'd see them standing out in front of there (kids) crying," owner Dawn Harris-Martine said. "They have come to recognize that Grandma is going to be here."

Not only is Grandma still here, she's not going anywhere.

It is because of the pandemic, that Harris-Martine knows her toy store and literacy center on West 120th Street is more important now than ever.

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"As a retired school teacher I was watching the news and knowing that parents -- they need a lot of support in order to do this at home on a consistent basis with multi-children," Harris-Martine said.

The 81-year-old retired school teacher of 35 years, stocked her toy store and literacy center with grade level specific curriculum and workbooks and critical thinking games.

She is starting a storytelling podcast created solely in order to read books to kids. Yes, grandma is old school.

"I don't believe in electronics, number one. I want kids to think, critical think," Harris-Martine said. "I want them to communicate with each other and those kinds of things don't permit that so I don't permit them in the store."

The parents who come here, know this and like it.

"I know he's going to be able to get everything he needs here," parent Chris McAdams said. "Mainly artistic things, getting writing skills down like that. Also hand-eye coordination as well."

Harris-Martine says it's a passion of hers.

"I make no money, but it's been the best ride of my life," she said.

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