Minnesota Author Visits Albert Lea Elementary Schools for I Love Reading Month


February 24—By Alex Guerrero

Laura Purdie Salas has been busy this week.

The Minnesota author traveled around the Albert Lea School District all week when classes were in session and read different themed books at the district’s request.

Each year, the district invites a Minnesota author or illustrator to visit elementary schools, usually during the last week of February during I Love to Read month.

“When we asked our last two guest authors, Mike Wohnoutka and David LaRochelle, who we should invite to present in 2022, they both recommended Laura,” said Kristen Seeger, library media specialist for the district.

For kindergarten and first graders, Purdie Salas read “We Belong,” an affirmation book, and asked them to compose a draft of a poem. In second and third grade, she chose “If You Want to Knit Mittens”, a story documenting the process of making woolen mittens and scarves. For fourth and fifth graders, she shared excerpts from many of her stories and spoke with children about creativity and the similarities between being an author and the work they do in the classroom.

It was her first time in a classroom in two years, although she has given virtual presentations during the pandemic.

“It’s really exciting to be back,” she said.

Purdie Salas started out writing for adults and worked in magazines until she was teaching English in eighth grade.

“I had so much fun talking about books with the kids and reading all the books they read,” she said.

She also enjoyed reading to her daughters at the time and decided that writing children’s stories was what she wanted to do.

Purdie Salas was at Sibley Elementary on Wednesday, Halverson on Thursday and Lakeview on Friday. She spent her daily lunch hours at Hawthorne, where she did a grade-level session each day.

“These kinds of events are a way for me to really hear what my audience likes, what they think…” she said. “It’s fun to see how the kids react. And [I] learn to affirm them in their own writing, reading and creativity and try to encourage them.”

Purdie Salas, who has been an author for 23 years, described her books as a mix between non-fiction and poetry, although she dabbled in fiction.

“It’s the kids,” she said. “They give me such energy.

“It’s hard and tiring work…but I always leave thinking, ‘Wow, I’m so lucky to be able to write for these kids.’ And sometimes I get funny ideas from what they say.”

The visit was sponsored by elementary school parent-teacher organizations.

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