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At Grandma's Place In Harlem, Shoppers Find Toys, Books, And Life Lessons

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Dawn Harris-Martine is the whole neighborhood's grandma.

Born and raised in Harlem, she taught second grade for three decades before opening Grandma's Place, a literacy center that has evolved into a store for children's books and toys.

Stuffed animals, building blocks, and board games fill the colorful space, but most important to Grandma Dawn are the books, which she curates with a focus on inclusivity.

"I want every child to see themselves in this store. I want them to be able to pick up a book and read some positive, uplifting thing about them and their culture and their people," she said.

Grandma Dawn prides herself in finding the right titles to build excitement about reading.

"That's my hidden agenda, to make everyone a reader," she said.

More than a store, Grandma's Place has become a community hub.

"People come here for a variety of reasons and not necessarily to buy toys. Sometimes, they come here to talk," she said.

Often juggling the demands of work and parenthood, adults in the area come to her for advice and encouragement.

Kids stop by the shop on their way to nearby Marcus Garvey Park, some to look for new toys and others to share recent accomplishments with Grandma Dawn.

"When they bring a report card in to me, the next time, all I ask is that that report card is as good or better than the one they brought me," she said.

For Grandma Dawn, reading is the gateway to discovery. She hopes the books on her shelves enable kids to find comfort, build skills, and envision the future.

"I think my job is to help identify for them what the possibilities are," she said.

Grandma's Place
84 W 120th St
New York, NY 10027
(212) 360-6776

What's something few people know about but everybody should? Whatever it is, Elle McLogan is tracking it down on The Dig. Join her hunt for treasures hidden across our area. Follow Elle on Twitter and Instagram.

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