Feature Image: Pictured (left to right): Christi Skilbred (Capstone), Tim Penny (SMIF), Becky Tish and Dianne Armbrust from Martin County West Schools (2018 Literacy Grant recipients), Gail Beer (Capstone)


OWATONNA, Minn., February 19, 2019 – Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), in partnership with publishing companies ABDO and Capstone, is accepting applications for the Early Childhood Literacy Grant Program. The Literacy Program is designed to support early literacy efforts that enhance school readiness for children birth to age five by providing children with books. Organizations working with these children in SMIF’s 20-county region are encouraged to apply for books to be given to families to keep and read to their children.

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 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 children birth to age five. SMIF has previously partnered with both companies on collectively distributing more than one hundred thousand books across the region through grants and programming.

“Literacy skills in young children are a key measure of future success in school and life,” said Rae Jean Hansen, Vice President of Early Childhood at SMIF. “This collaborative partnership with Capstone and ABDO is critical to our efforts to provide parents and children in the region with support they need to prepare for school.”

“We, at Capstone, believe that literacy has the power to open many doors and windows for all children,” said Christie Skilbred, Corporate Giving and Literacy Center Manager for Coughlan Companies, the holding company for Capstone. “Our continued partnership with Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation parallels our mission of providing children the building blocks for lifelong success. We are passionate about the positive impact the Literacy Grants offer Southern Minnesota and proud to partner with SMIF in assisting these grants.”

“We are excited to be donating books through the Literacy Grant program again this year,” said DeMar Borth, Director of Marketing for ABDO. “This partnership supports our mission of getting more books into the hands of young readers.”

Award recipients will choose from a selection of more than 10,000 books donated by the publishing companies, including bilingual and early childhood appropriate books. Applications are due to SMIF by April 16, 2019. Awards will be announced in May with a book pick-up celebration in June.

For more information or to apply visit our website at www.smifoundation.org or contact Jennifer Heien at 507-214-7040; jenniferh@smifoundation.org.

About ABDO

ABDO has been a leader in children’s educational publishing for school and public libraries since 1985, providing high quality nonfiction and fiction titles for children and young adults in grades PreK–12. The company is known throughout the industry for its excellence in both reading materials and customer service. ABDO titles are available in reinforced library bindings as well as digital products, including multi-use eBooks, Read-to-Me eBooks, and Databases. To learn more about ABDO please visit abdobooks.com.

About Capstone

Capstone is a leading publisher of children’s books in nonfiction and fiction, digital products and services and literacy programs. Capstone’s content comes in a variety of print and digital formats including board books, picture books, interactive books, apps, audio and databases. Imprints under Capstone include Capstone Press, Stone Arch Books, Picture Window Books, Heinemann Raintree and Compass Point Books. For more information, visit www.CapstonePub.com.

About Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), a donor-supported foundation, invests for economic growth in the 20 counties of south central and southeastern Minnesota. The Foundation has provided more than $111 million in grants, loans and programming within the region during the past 32 years. SMIF’s key interests include early childhood, community and economic development. To learn more about our work and mission, visit www.smifoundation.org.

Media Contact:

Katie Godfrey
Communications Coordinator