Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) recently awarded 27,828 children’s books valued at $431,334 to 66 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.

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 were awarded Early Literacy Grants because they provide outstanding early literacy opportunities for young children and their families:

Fairmont Area Schools

Project 1590, Fairmont

Youth First, Fairmont

Butterfield Odin Public School

Granada Huntley East Chain Schools

Human Services of Faribault and Martin Counties

Watonwan County Health and Human Services

Wells Public Library

“ABDO is proud to support SMIF’s Early Literacy Grant Program,” said DeMar Borth, Chief Operating Officer of ABDO. “We are honored to help get books into the hands of many young children across the region.”

“During these trying and unprecedented times, now more than ever supporting early literacy is critically important,” said Christie Skilbred, Capstone Corporate Giving Manager. “Capstone is proud to support literacy efforts in the region by providing books for the Early Literacy Grants. We congratulate all of this year’s grant recipients and thank them for their important work helping children in our region. Through our continued partnership with Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, we are able to help communities succeed together.”

“We are honored to be providing a record number of organizations with books this year through our Early Literacy Grant Program,” said Rae Jean Hansen, Vice President of Early Childhood at SMIF. “Reading with young children is critical to their development and future success.”

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.