Education program receives books to promote early literacy

Published 9:00 am Sunday, July 12, 2015

Early childhood education students in Albert Lea will get a chance to start their reading skills early.

Early Childhood Family Education was one of 28 organizations to receive donated books through Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation’s BookStart program, a partnership between SMIF and Capstone — based in Mankato — according to a press release.

The grant program, which awarded a total of 10,000 books valued at $163,421, is one of SMIF’s early childhood efforts focused on providing resources so all children can have a healthy life of learning, achieving and succeeding.

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Studies show reading at a young age improves a child’s educational trajectory. Not only does reading aloud help children acquire early language skills, it fosters curiosity and memory and helps children develop positive associations with reading.

Given this research, SMIF partnered with Capstone to launch BookStart with the goal of helping the region’s children begin to build their own home library.

Over the past 13 years, BookStart has reached thousands of children and parents through programming and the distribution of approximately 80,000 books across southern Minnesota to promote a lifelong love for reading.

“Reading should be fun, accessible and engaging, for both children and their caregivers,” Tim Penny, SMIF’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “Capstone has been a great longtime partner with our BookStart program as we work to make sure all of our region’s children have a book at home to read or be read to by family members. We believe investing in our young children is a long-term strategy that will pay big dividends for our communities and businesses.”

ECFE was selected to receive 250 books valued at $4,250, because they provide outstanding early literacy opportunities for young children and their families within Albert Lea, according to a press release.

ECFE will incorporate the books into their Parent Education classes by promoting households to have a literacy-friendly home. During the parent education and early childhood sessions, young children will receive one of the books to take home and keep.

To join these efforts or to learn more contact Megan Gooden, early childhood assistant at Brookside Education Center, at 507-379-4838.

As part of its strategy to invest in economic growth in southern Minnesota, SMIF has supported early childhood efforts to make certain all children enter school fully encouraged, prepared and supported for learning success.

Through their efforts, $1 million has been invested in early childhood education annually within the 20-county region over the past 10 years.

For more information on SMIF’s Early Childhood Initiative partnerships and resources, contact Teri Steckelberg at

Capstone is a leading publisher of children’s books in nonfiction and fiction, digital products and services and literacy programs. Capstone’s content comes in a variety of print and digital formats including board books, picture books, interactive books, apps, audio and databases. Imprints under Capstone include Capstone Press, Stone Arch Books, Picture Window Books, Heinemann Raintree and Compass Point Books. For more information, visit