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Nonprofit aims to connect Philadelphia grandparents, grandchildren through a love of reading

Over 15K grandparents raise kids in Philly. This nonprofit helps them bond through a love of reading
Over 15K grandparents raise kids in Philly. This nonprofit helps them bond through a love of reading 02:54

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- It takes a village to raise a child, and in Philadelphia, that village often includes grandparents.

More than 15,000 kids in the city are being raised by their grandparents, according to Connectedly, a nonprofit based in Manayunk.

It's a nonprofit that is often called the city's best-kept secret, but it shouldn't be. One of its many missions is to help grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, and the need is great in Philadelphia.

Connectedly is hoping to help those caregivers through its GrandFamily Resource Center. One of the programs it offers Philly Families Read Together, which focuses on weekly literacy workshops.

The most recent workshop included a story time at Hakim's Book Store in West Philadelphia.

The goal of the workshops is twofold -- an opportunity to bond, as well as a space to provide caregivers books, school supplies and the skills needed to foster learning at home.

"The program is awesome," said Dana Collier, a grandparent caregiver.

"We're improving family engagement, and in terms of the grandparents, feeling like they can do this, feeling like they can help their grandchildren with their schoolwork," said Marypat Tracy, executive director of Connectedly.

Educators have seen the results firsthand.

Grandkids participate in a storytime event at Hakim's Book Store in West Philadelphia.

"They are investing in our scholars, they are investing in our children," said Alonzo Fulton, principal of Avery D. Harrington Elementary School. "Their test scores have risen, some of them have risen up to 5 to 10%."

And the workshop at Hakim's was extra special.

Hakim's is historic as Philadelphia's oldest Black-owned bookstore specializing in African American books.

"It's important that African American children have books that have people that look like them," owner Yvonne Blake said. "Very important, because they need to see what they can strive to be."

And Connectedly wants to keep this success story going.

"Our program here is funded by the Carnegie Foundation, and it is ending in June," Tracy said. "So, we will be looking for new funding. We want to see how we can make this program continue beyond June."

Connectedly's programming goes far beyond reading. It also supports grandparents when it comes to digital literacy, including navigating a child's online school portal.

Grandparent caregivers who need help can call 215-487-3000 or visit Connectedly's website.

Connectedly has been a nonprofit for 40 years in Philadelphia. It was formerly known as SOWN.

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