SMIF seeks applications for childhood literacy grants

Published 8:53 pm Thursday, February 21, 2019

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, in partnership with publishing companies ABDO and Capstone, is accepting applications for a early childhood literacy grant program, according to a press release. The literacy program is designed to support early literacy efforts that enhance school readiness for children birth to age 5 by providing children with books. Organizations working with these children in SMIF’s 20-county region are encouraged to apply for books to be given to families to keep and read to their children.

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 literacy grant was formed as a new collaborative effort between SMIF and the two Mankato-based publishing companies to put even more books into the hands of children, birth to age 5. SMIF has previously partnered with both companies on collectively distributing more than 100,000 books across the region through grants and programming.

“Literacy skills in young children are a key measure of future success in school and life,” said Rae Jean Hansen, vice president of early childhood at SMIF, in the release. “This collaborative partnership with Capstone and ABDO is critical to our efforts to provide parents and children in the region with support they need to prepare for school.”

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Christie Skilbred, corporate giving and literacy center manager for Coughlan Companies, the holding company for Capstone, said literacy has the power to open doors and windows for al children.

“Our continued partnership with Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation parallels our mission of providing children the building blocks for lifelong success,” Skilbred said. “We are passionate about the positive impact the literacy grants offer southern Minnesota and proud to partner with SMIF in assisting these grants.”

DeMar Borth, director of marketing for ABDO, echoed those comments.

“We are excited to be donating books through the Literacy Grant Program again this year,” Borth said. “This partnership supports our mission of getting more books into the hands of young readers.”

Award recipients will choose from a selection of more than 10,000 books donated by the publishing companies, including bilingual and early childhood appropriate books. Applications are due to SMIF by April 16. Awards will be announced in May with a book pickup celebration in June.

For more information or to apply, visit or contact Jennifer Heien at 507-214-7040 or