Writer ‘a true literacy leader’

Susan Peterson
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by Susan Peterson

Rachel Shankles has always loved books, and it was this interest that sparked her 42-year career as an English teacher and library media specialist in Arkansas.

Although she is retired, literacy remains her passion – one she has evidently passed on to her family. Rachel’s daughter, Amy Hutto, is the librarian at South Side School in Bee Branch. Her two children, Blair and Ben Hutto, who are in the sixth and eighth grades, are avid readers and, more amazingly, they recently authored two books with their grandmother.

Author Rachel Shankles

When Rachel retired six years ago from Lakeside Schools in Hot Springs, she and her husband moved to Triple S Farm in Bismarck (Hot Spring County). When her grandchildren came to visit, they would all walk in the woods, hike the fields, explore the buildings and make up stories about the enchanting places they discovered. Rachel would later jot down their imaginative stories. For example, a large squirrel nest became a “squirrel motel,” and exposed pine tree roots morphed into a magical “wishing circle.” One day, one of the children asked if their stories could be published, and Rachel thought, “Why not?”  She contacted Yorkshire Publishing in Tulsa and their new adventure began.

Their first book was “Triple S Farm Adventures: Hawkie’s in Trouble,” published in March 2018. It was followed in November by “Triple S Farm Adventures: Hootie to the Rescue.” All three names are prominently featured as authors on the book jackets. Rachel is a task master, and she gives Blair and Ben specific assignments to complete, whether ironing out a plot detail or proofreading for grammatical errors. The book illustrations were done by the publishing company based on photos and descriptions.

Rachel also published “McLain Street Gang,” a book of stories based on her own memoirs of living in Newport (Jackson County). Anyone interested in smalltown life will enjoy reading about the Blue Bridge, the soda fountain at the local drug store and her escapades growing up in the 1950s.

When Rachel makes school visits, she dresses up like a farmer and tells how the farm stories were published as she reads from the books. She tells kindergarteners through fourth-graders about the habitats of the hawk and owl in her stories and explains the writing process to older students. Ben and Blair accompany her in the summer and to some public library events.

Rachel is a true literacy leader. From the time she was in junior high, she loved to write, especially poetry. For 42 years, she shared a love of literacy with thousands of students. Recently, she was a columnist for two state library organization journals. Three years ago, she started working as practicum coordinator in the Library Media Program at the University of Central Arkansas, where she prepares future librarians to motivate and inspire their students. Now, her own published books can influence a new generation of readers.

Rachel, Ben and Blair have a third book in the works, but no specific date is scheduled for publication. Books may be ordered from online sellers, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or purchased directly from her at shankles08.wixsite.com/rachelshankles, where she also lists upcoming appearances. For school visits, contact Rachel by emailing [email protected]