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Montana author visits Arlee schoolchildren to share stories, spark curiosity of natural word

Award winning writer Sneed B. Collard III stood in front of third to sixth grade Arlee Elementary School students during an assembly last Thursday and presented an important question.

“What does an iguana eat?” he asked.

The kids’ responses ranged from: bugs, rats, and maybe humans. Collard smiled and called on a few more students until they got closer to the plant kingdom food group.

“They eat cactuses,” he finally said as he pointed to a picture of a large prickly desert plant. 

Collard’s nonfiction and fiction books mainly focus on animals and nature. He talked to Arlee students about his recent trip to the Galapagos Islands in an effort to teach them a few skills about writing and share some interesting facts about wildlife. 

He asked the students to narrow down his presentation about the islands and come up with a good topic for a book. They settled on a bird with blue feet called the blue-footed booby and talked about things that might go in a book about the bird. He jokingly directed their attention to another bird that eats tourists on the islands to make sure they were paying attention.

Brody Smith, 11, likes to read, but he’d never met an author of books before. He said Collard was one of the good ones. 

“Usually when you read nonfiction, they just spill out the facts, but he puts a story with the facts, so it’s nice to read,” Smith said.

Amarah Buckner, 10, also enjoys reading Collard’s books. The one he wrote about a platypus, she said, was particularly interesting. After listening to the writer talk, Buckner said it seems like he has a creative mind.

Collard headed into a classroom after the assembly to talk about active verbs and other writing strategies to help a sixth grade class develop their skills. The students identified weak verbs in random sentences and worked to find better ones. 

Collard travels to schools in his home state of Montana as well as other schools across the country. He said he shares stories about his adventures in the hope students realize that writing isn’t just for a grade. 

“I also want to inspire them to have a love of nature and the planet and to promote a curiosity about the world,” Collard said.

Arlee School Librarian Tricia DesJarlais organized the day with the writer. She said she hopes the event inspires students to love reading and writing and encourages them to visit the school’s library to find adventures by Collard and other writers. 

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