The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation based in Owatonna announces that nearly 20,000 children's books valued at $363,000 has been distributed in the Foundation's 20 county area.

The books were awarded to 49 organizations through the Early Childhood Literacy Grant Program. They were awarded in partnership with Capston and ABDO. Both are Mankato-based publishers of children's books.

Receiving free books in Southern Minnesota include:

Cannon Falls Area Schools

Dodge County Public Health

Faribault Public Schools

Freeborn County Public Health

Kasson-Mantorville Public Schools

NRHEG

Steele County Public Health

Triton Public Schools

Waseca County Public Health.

The awarding of these books is to enhance school readiness for children birth to age five.

The first class of the Owatonna Music Hall of Fame will be introduced Tuesday. Read more here.