Early Literacy Fosters a Love of Lifelong Learning | News, Sports, Jobs

As summer days turn into evenings, many parents pull out a book or two to read to their children at bedtime. This is important because studies consistently show that reading at a young age significantly improves a child’s academic trajectory. At the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), we know the importance of investing in early literacy efforts as a long-term strategy to support lifelong success.

According to Minnesota Compass, the ability to read by the end of third grade often predicts future academic and personal success. Unfortunately, only 48% of third-graders in Minnesota are fluent in reading, and our 20-county region is only a fraction above the state average.

SMIF supports these literacy efforts through our Early Literacy Bursary Program. We recently distributed over 21,000 books — in English, Spanish and bilingual — to 46 organizations in our area through this grant. These organizations – libraries, schools, public health organizations, reading centers and others – work with children from birth to 8 years old. The beauty of this program is that these organizations will distribute the books to children who can take them home, encouraging a lifelong love of reading.

Minnesota publishing houses, ABDO and Capstone, generously donate the majority of the books for this program. Over the years of partnering with these companies, we have been able to distribute over one hundred thousand books throughout the region.

Our AmeriCorps LEAP Initiative program is another way to facilitate early literacy. LEAP stands for Learning Early Achieves Potential, which is the mantra that guides this program.

Each year, AmeriCorps members are placed throughout the region in preschools and nonprofit organizations. Our members work on the social and emotional development of children who are at risk of falling behind. Reading exercises are an important part of the program. As we continue to invest in early literacy efforts, we hope to see reading skills increase in our region. Our partner organizations and grant recipients do a tremendous job of ensuring that our future adults are prepared to succeed in life. We are proud to be a partner in these efforts.

We are currently seeking AmeriCorps members for our 2022-23 term. Contact Barbara Gunderson at 507-456-0353 or barbarag@smifoundation.org to learn more.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can reach me at timp@smifoundation.org or 507-455-3215.

– Tim Penney is the CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and former Congressman from the 1st Congressional District.

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