SMIF now accepting Early Literacy Grants

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, in partnership with publishing companies Capstone and ABDO, is accepting applications for its Early Literacy Grant program. This grant is designed to support early literacy efforts that enhance school readiness for children birth to 8-years-old by providing children with books. Nonprofit organizations working with these children and their families in SMIF’s 20-county region are encouraged to apply.

Priority in funding will be given to projects that target diverse and at-risk populations that may not be receiving books through any other avenues in the community, strengthen parental awareness of early literacy needs including communication and language development, include a parent education component, offer new and creative ways to reach diverse and at-risk families and/or collaborate with other organizations to provide literacy enhancements.

“SMIF’s Early Literacy Grant program has distributed thousands of books to children across southern Minnesota,” said Rae Jean Hansen, SMIF’s vice president of early childhood. “We are grateful to Capstone and ABDO for their continued partnership in this program to provide families with the tools they need to succeed.”

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“We are so incredibly proud to continue our 21-year partnership with Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation to invest in our children through literacy,” said Gail Beer, Capstone vice president of customer relations and operations. “Capstone believes in giving every child the building blocks for lifelong success and that starts with access to books. SMIF is doing important work to change the lives of children in our community and we’re so honored to be a part of that.”

“ABDO’s five-year partnership with SMIF’s Early Literacy Grant program has been a successful way to distribute more books to young readers in southern Minnesota,” said DeMar Borth, director of marketing for ABDO. “We are proud to once again donate books for this program.”

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 fifteen years. In 2018, the Early 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 young children. SMIF has also previously partnered with both Capstone and ABDO on collectively distributing more than one hundred thousand books across the region through grants and programming.

Applications are due to SMIF by 3 p.m. March 15. Applications that target diverse and at-risk populations will be prioritized. For more information or to apply, visit For questions about what SMIF might fund, contact Heidi Coulter, early childhood project manager, at 507-214-7016 or