– Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) recently awarded 20,000 children’s books valued at $363,400 to 49 organizations through its Early Childhood Literacy Grant Program. This grant supports early literacy efforts that enhance school readiness for children birth to age five by providing children with books.  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 Childhood 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.  Among the organizations awarded Early Childhood Literacy Grants because they provide outstanding early literacy opportunities for young children and their families include:·     Human Services of Faribault and Martin Counties·     Youth First, Fairmont·     Watonwan County Human Services/Public Health·     Wells Public Library·     Amboy Public Library“Learning to read is a foundational milestone in a child’s life and incredibly important in setting up their future success,” said Christie Skilbred, Capstone Corporate Giving Manager. “Capstone is honored to support early literacy efforts in the region by providing books for the Early Childhood Literacy Grant recipients. We want to congratulate all of the grant recipients this year and thank them for the important work their doing to support early literacy in their community. Helping kids succeed by making learning fun is at the heart of what we do. Through our continued partnership with Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, we are able to reach and help more children in our communities succeed together.”

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