Black Hills Reads distributes $22,000 in innovative grants to local libraries and child care organizations

United Way of the Black Hills and Black Hills Reads distributed grants to capture innovative solutions to learning loss due to COVID-19. Qualifying entities must be working with youth, ages 0-8 years and must be a: nonprofit entity, city/government program, school district, faith-based organization or library. 

Grant recipients include: 

Custer County Library: $2,000 

Funds will be used to promote and execute the Custer County Library's 2020 "Imagine Your Story" Virtual Summer Reading Program. This program is offered to children from ages 0-19 who reside in Custer County. The purpose of the program is two-fold: 1) It encourages students to read during the summer in order to strengthen and maintain skills acquired during the school year, thus preventing the Summer Slide. 2) It encourages reading to babies and young children who are not yet independent readers, thus improving their reading readiness.


Friends of Piedmont Valley Library: $3,500

Funds will be used to purchase STEAM equipment and kits to support student summer learning. By offering a wide variety of STEAM equipment to their patrons, this will offer students the chance to handle and learn with equipment that is a little too expensive for the typical classroom or family. 



Early Childhood Connections: $4,500 (awarded 2 grants)

  1. Starting Strong Rapid City

Funds will be used to create curriculum themed kits that will have a month worth of learning materials for children. Both curriculum kits support the South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines. They contain a weekly lesson plan and a preschool home schedule to help provide consistency during the child’s learning time at home. 

  1. The Grow Campus

Funds will be used to create an interactive garden area learning space for families and teachers to bring children of all ages to explore. This space will provide hands-on learning, large motor, small motor and sensory experiences for everyone wishing to engage. The site will provide learning opportunities supported with photographic signage and QR scan codes that link to further, more in-depth information related to the experience, and learning ideas that can be done at home. Experiences ranging from How Food Grows, Bugs in the Garden, Composting and Worms, Life of a Gardener, Water Flows Down Hill and Critter Climber are just a few that will be offered.


Girl Scouts: $1,000 

Funds will be used to provide scholarships for girls in the Black Hills Area to participate in an entirely new format of Girl Scout programs known as the Girl Scouts At Home Program. Through this program, girls are learning how to prepare meals for their families, engage in STEM-based learning, and a host of other hands-on learning activities. Dozens of topics are being offered, along with resources for troop leaders and parents to use to make this an experience for the entire family to enjoy. 


Grace Balloch Memorial Library: $2,500 

Funds will be used to purchase prizes and materials for their summer reading incentive program. Prizes will be purchased by local businesses, particularly those that have donated prizes for the program in the past, as a way of thanking them for their support and helping them out at a time that many of them are struggling due to recent shutdowns.


Rapid City Library: $500

Funds will be used to purchase and create take-and-make learning kits to deliver via bookmobile to members in the community who might not have access to the physical library. 


Northern Hills Alliance for Children: $2,000 

Funds will be used to create a second ‘Yearling’ classroom to accommodate classroom sizes for one-year old participants in order to follow CDC guidelines. This room will require duplicate materials from the first yearlings room including high chairs, bookshelves, cabinets, classroom rugs, and developmentally appropriate books and toys. The goal of this classroom is to help one year olds hit their stride socially and academically, and make up lost time due to COVID slide.


Girls Inc. at Youth and Family Services: $2,000 

Funds will be used to deliver nutrition, education, and other services to Girls Inc. students remotely. Girls Inc. Child Development Specialists (grade level teachers) continue to develop and assemble an average of 130 Out-Of-School Learning Kits every week. The Kits are designed to provide fun, engaging activities that supplement academic learning. They offer opportunities for hands-on learning and consist of easy to follow activities that girls might be engaged in if they were meeting face-to-face at the Girls Inc. Center. 


Hill City School District: $2,000

Funds will be used to purchase replacement textbooks, classroom library sets, and library books to replace those that were not returned as students took them home for the remainder of the school year.