21,020 children’s books awarded under SMIF’s Early Literacy Grant program – Austin Daily Herald

The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) recently awarded 21,020 children’s books to 46 organizations through its Early Literacy Grant Program. This grant supports early literacy efforts that improve the school readiness of children from birth to age eight by providing them with books.

The books were awarded in partnership with Capstone and ABDO, publishers of children’s books and digital products and services based in Mankato. In 2002, Capstone helped launch the BookStart program, working with SMIF to distribute thousands of books to area children over a 15-year period. In 2018, the Early Literacy Scholarship was created as part of a new collaborative effort between SMIF and the two publishers to get even more books into the hands of children from birth to eight years old. SMIF has already partnered with the two companies to collectively distribute more than 100,000 books in the region through grants and programs.

Regional groups in our area who have received the books include

• Blooming Prairie Elementary School

• Christmas in the towns of Adams and Taopi

• Southern Minnesota Kiwanis Clubs

• Leo Augusta Children’s Academy in Blooming Prairie

• Southern Minnesota Education Consortium in Grand Meadow

“Getting books into the hands of young children boosts their development with language, reading and more,” said Rae Jean Hansen, vice president of early childhood at SMIF.

“Our long-term partnerships with Capstone and ABDO are essential to our efforts to provide parents and children with the support they need to prepare for school.”

Winners received a selection of titles donated by publishers, including bilingual and early childhood-friendly books. Organizations will integrate the books into their programs and events where young children will receive books to take home and keep

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