ECFE receives books to promote literacy

Published 9:44 am Thursday, September 8, 2016

Early Childhood Family Education was one of 26 organizations to receive donated books through Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundations’s BookStart program, a partnership between SMIF and Capstone, based in Mankato.

The grant program, which awarded 10,000 books valued at $172,650 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.

Studies consistently show that reading at a young age drastically improves a child’s education 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.

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Over the past 13 years, BookStart has reached thousands of children and parents through programming and the distribution of approximately 90,000 books across southern Minnesota to promote a lifelong love for reading.

“Reading should be fun, accessible and engaging, for both children and their caregivers.  Capstone has been a great long-time 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,” SMIF’s President and CEO Tim Penny said. “We believe investing in our young children is a longterm strategy that will pay big dividends for our communities and businesses.”

Albert Lea Area Schools Early Childhood Family Education was selected to receive 750 books valued at $12,750, because they provide outstanding early literacy opportunities for young children and their families within the community.

ECFE will incorporate the books into their program by presenting literacy-based parenting lessons to parents enrolled in ECFE classes. These lessons will teach about the importance of reading aloud, including early language skills; developing positive associations with books and reading; and developing a stronger foundation for school success. Books will also be given out during one of the “Fit for Kids” events in January and February at Northbridge Mall.

Another way that ECFE is going to use the books is through its new Reading Oasis Library. Books will be incentive gifts for participation in the Reading Oasis room giving parent a chance to build their child’s own home libraries.

As part of its strategy to invest in economic growth 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