By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- Indian River County educators are more than just teachers reading essays, grading math homework and creating homework assignments. They are creative and imaginative people with dreams.
Husband and wife Michael and Beth Hofer have been teaching in Indian River County schools for about a decade and have channeled their interest in student learning and literacy into creating and publishing children's books from their home.
This weekend the Hofer's were at family holiday fest hosted by Literacy Services of Indian River County promoting their latest book, "Major Manner presents Nite Nite Soldier," which was named a 2012 finalist for the best new children's picture book by USA Book News.
While they didn't win the award, they were among five finalists for their category and the list of nominees included books by big name publishing houses, Mr. Hofer said.
"We're just little Out House Ink Publishing and we're competing with them. When USA Book News said we were a finalist, I knew we were doing something right," he said.
Mr. Hofer is currently a math teacher at Oslo Middle School and Mrs. Hofer is an assistant principal at Vero Beach High School. They have three children who they often use as a test audience for their story ideas.
The "Major Manners" book is a story designed to be read in military cadence and helps adults find a fun new way to prepare children for bedtime, Mrs. Hofer said.
The book comes with an audio CD of Mr. Hofer reading the book and his own children echoing his rhythmic speech.
The point of the story is to teach good habits and manners in a fun way and at the same time, promote a love of reading, said Mrs. Hofer, a former English teacher and reading coach.
"Major Manners" is their third self-published book and all three works have been created with the intent to encourage literacy.
Their first book, "Abigail the Snail and the Purple Sock," was published in 2007 and since then, the ideas and passion for writing has blossomed.
"When our daughter, Abigail, was 3, we had an old pickup truck that had no radio in it. I just started rhyming with her in the truck, anything to keep her entertained.
"She would giggle and laugh. When we got home, she starts quoting the story to her mom. Beth said, 'you guys wrote a book!'" Mr. Hofer said.
A few hours later, with the help from clip art and a word processor, Abigail the Snail lived on paper.
Rhyming is one way children increase their vocabulary and learn to read, and singing is also closely linked to their learning experience, Mrs. Hofer said.
"Kids learn better when they are having fun," she said.
Many children in the school system struggle with reading, even at the high- school level.
If the books they write can help children develop an interest in reading, their hours of editing and collaborating will pay off, Mr. Hofer said.
For more information about the Hofers' work, visit www.outhouseink.com.