20,000 children’s books awarded through SMIF’s Early Childhood Literacy Program

Allison Miller, Owatonna People’s Press, May 16, 2019

OWATONNA — Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) recently awarded 20,000 children’s books valued at $363,400 to 49 organizations through its Early Childhood Literacy Grant Program. This grant supports early literacy efforts that enhance school readiness for children birth to age five by providing children with books.

The books were awarded in partnership with Capstone and ABDO, Mankato-based publishers of children’s books and digital products and services. In 2002, Capstone helped launch the BookStart program, working with SMIF to distribute thousands of books to children in the region over a period of 15 years. In 2018, the Early Childhood Literacy Grant was formed as a new collaborative effort between SMIF and the two publishers to put even more books into the hands of children birth to age five. SMIF has previously partnered with both companies on collectively distributing more than 100,000 books across the region through grants and programming.

“Learning to read is a foundational milestone in a child’s life and incredibly important in setting up their future success,” said Christie Skilbred, Capstone Corporate Giving Manager. “Capstone is honored to support early literacy efforts in the region by providing books for the Early Childhood Literacy Grant recipients. We want to congratulate all of the grant recipients this year and thank them for the important work their doing to support early literacy in their community. Helping kids succeed by making learning fun is at the heart of what we do. Through our continued partnership with Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, we are able to reach and help more children in our communities succeed together.”

The following organizations were awarded Early Childhood Literacy Grants because they provide outstanding early literacy opportunities for young children and their families:

• Amboy Public Library

• Brown County Public Health

• Byron Public Schools

• Cannon Falls Area Schools

• Dodge County Public Health

• Families First of Minnesota, Rochester

• Faribault Public Schools

• Fillmore Central Public Schools, Preston

• Freeborn County Public Health

• Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop Public Schools

• Human Services of Faribault and Martin Counties

• Kasson-Mantorville Public Schools

• Kenyon-Wanamingo Public Schools

• Kingsland Public Schools, Spring Valley

• Kiwanis International MN-DAK District

• La Crescent-Hokah Public Schools

• Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Public Schools

• Lanesboro Public Library

• Le Sueur-Henderson Public Schools

• Minnesota Valley Action Council

• New Prague Area Early Childhood Initiative

• New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva Public Schools

• New Ulm Public Schools

• Northfield Public Schools

• Pine Island Public Schools

• Riverway Learning Community, Winona

• Rochester Area Family YMCA

• Rochester Public Schools

• Rushford-Peterson Public Schools

• St. Anne’s School, Le Sueur

• St. Charles Public Schools

• St. Matthew Community Preschool, Saint Charles

• SEMCAC Head Start

• Sleepy Eye Public Schools

• Southern Minnesota Education Consortium

• Spring Grove Public Schools

• Steele County Public Health

• Stewartville Public Schools

• The Reading Center, Rochester

• Three Rivers Community Action Incorporated, Northfield

• Thrive Child Care and Family Resource Center, Rochester

• Tri-City United Public Schools, Le Center/Lonsdale/Montgomery

• Triton Public Schools, Dodge Center

Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Elgin

• Waseca County Public Health

• Waterville-Elysian-Morristown Public Schools

• Watonwan County Human Services/Public Health

• Wells Public Library

• Youth First, Fairmont

“By reading to children, they are exposed to so many wonderful things – imagination, creating, thinking and painting a picture of the story in their mind,” said Rae Jean Hansen, Vice President of Early Childhood at SMIF. “The nurturing and one-on-one attention during reading encourages children to form a positive association with books and reading.”

Award recipients will be able to choose from a selection of titles donated by the publishing companies, including bilingual and early childhood appropriate books. The organizations will incorporate the books into their programs and events where young children will receive books to take home and keep.