Stephanie Roberts beams with pride when she talks about her three daughters—Alicia, Melissa and Beth—and her son, Dan.
Gloucester Township Patch caught up with the Blackwood resident at the Glendora Dunkin' Donuts on Thursday specifically to discuss one of her four children.
Beth and her husband, Michael Hofer, just printed the first 4,000 copies of their latest children's book, Major Manners Presents Nite-Nite Soldier.
"I'm very proud of them," Roberts said.
Major Manners features a military-style cadence, which Beth Hofer said "will have children playfully marching to bed with a smile on their face."
Beth grew up in Blackwood and later Woodbury—back when she was known as Beth Crisafulli. The Hofers live in Vero Beach, FL, where they are educators—with a burgeoning book business—and parents to three children.
While he's made a living as a math teacher, Michael Hofer has worked as both an actor and a comedian. It's that background that spawned the Hofers' children's book business.
The couple's first book, Abigail the Snail and Her Purple Sock, and the publishing company it spawned, Outhouse Ink Publishing, started in Michael's old pickup truck in 2007, when he was rhyming with daughter Abigail. Only they didn't know it at the time—it was just dad and his girl goofing around and having a good time.
But, when she later heard Abigail excitedly repeating the rhymes to friends and relatives, Beth knew the tales her 3-year-old daughter and husband had made up had to be in a book—other children would be excited about them, too!
"We're getting great response from teachers at elementary schools. ... We work really well together. I'm kind of the detail person and he's the idea man, and I do all the editing," Beth Hofer, a former English and reading teacher who is now assistant principal at Vero Beach High School, said. "He comes up with the crazy stories, and I follow him around the house with a piece of paper, writing it down."
The couple's first two books—the second is titled Abigail the Snail and Her Green Pail—are geared to preschool-age children.
Major Manners is intended for an audience of 4- to 8-year-old kids.
The Abigail the Snail books and Major Manners aim to teach children concepts of print and text features, and allows them to practice phonemic awareness—phonemes are the smallest units of speech sound.
Outhouse Ink Publishing is more of a family affair than it would appear on its face, with husband and wife co-authoring the books it publishes. Beth's sister, Alicia Allamby, whose full-time job is with QVC, moonlights as art director.
Roberts is not surprised her daughter has found her way to penning children's books.
"Beth, from the time she was very little, was a teacher," she said. "She sat her brother and sisters down and would read to them and teach them. All of this falls in line with her love of teaching,
It apparently is in her genes. Roberts noted that her mother, Miriam Taylor Schreiner, was a teacher in the Gloucester Township Public Schools system for more than 30 years and her middle daughter, Melissa Catando, is a teacher at Erial Elementary School.
The Hofers hope to sell the first 4,000 copies of Major Manners by the end of the year, then order a run of another 10,000 copies.
The book, which comes with an audio CD to allow "Private Teddy and his Character Command to take control," is available on the Outhouse Ink website and on Amazon. Order from the Outhouse Ink website and you'll get an autographed copy.
Maine resident Russ Cox illustrated Major Manners.
Editor's Note: September is National Literacy Month and Saturday is International Literacy Day.