SMIF awards more than 23K children’s books through grant program

Published 8:00 pm Friday, June 11, 2021

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) recently awarded 23,622 children’s books valued at $420,472 to 47 organizations through its Early Literacy Grant Program. This grant supports early literacy efforts that enhance school readiness for children birth to age five by providing children with books, according to a news release.

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 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.

The following organizations in the area were awarded Early Literacy Grants:

• Albert Lea Area Schools

• Kiwanis Clubs of Southern Minnesota

• New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva Public Schools

• Wells Public Library

“Getting books into the hands of young children has tremendous power in fueling their development – with language, reading and so much more,” said Rae Jean Hansen, vice president of early childhood at SMIF. “Our long-term partnerships with both Capstone and ABDO are critical to our efforts to provide parents and children with support they need to prepare for school.”

Award recipients will be provided 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.