Group celebrates child literacy program

Published 7:30 pm Sunday, June 24, 2018

Representatives from early childhood organizations gathered at the Owatonna Area Business Development Center recently to celebrate Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation’s Early Childhood Literacy program, according to a press release. The grant supports early literacy efforts that enhance school readiness for children from birth to age 5 by providing them with books.

This year, SMIF awarded 18,275 books with a total value of $219,300 to 41 organizations in partnership with ABDO Publishing and Capstone, leading publishers of children’s books and digital products and services. SMIF has previously partnered with both publishing companies on collectively distributing more than 100,000 books across the 20-county region through grants and programming. Local organizations benefiting from the program include Freeborn County Public Health, NRHEG schools and Parenting Resource Center in Austin.

Studies consistently show that reading at a young age drastically 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, according to the release. Literacy skill development is a key measure of future success in school and life, it stated.

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“Reading to and with children has tremendous power when it comes to fueling the development of all aspects of language ability; its importance to a child’s life in this day and age really can’t be overstated,” said Rae Jean Hansen, vice president of early childhood at SMIF. “Our long-term partnerships with both ABDO Publishing and Capstone are critical to our efforts to provide parents and children in the region with support they need to prepare for school.”

Award recipients could 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.

“Capstone believes that books not only open minds but doors for children,” said Christie Skilbred, corporate giving and literacy center manager for Coughlan Companies, the holding company for Capstone. “We are grateful for our continued partnership with Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation allowing us to reach more children together. We are excited for the positive lifelong effect the Literacy Grants will have on southern Minnesota’s youngest.”