PAGES AND PATTERNS
a guest blog by Francesca Ciotoli
Mother ● Teacher ● Bibliophile
Blogopus would like to welcome Francesca Ciotoli, who will write about the pages and patterns in her life. Next week, we’ll feature an interview with Francesca. For now, here’s a bit of background on our newest guest blogger.
The mother of two young children, one of whom has autism, Francesca is also an educator who specializes in curriculum development. She earned a bachelor’s in voice performance at the Manhattan School of Music and a master’s in education at Fordham University. Francesca has taught grades one through eight using her own curriculum during her ten years in the classroom. She developed the Shakespeare Project and the Gilbert and Sullivan Project at the Special Music School in New York City. [Editorial aside: Impressive!]
Francesca recently helped design a developmentally appropriate curriculum with a focus on inclusion for the Ben Samuels Children’s Center at Montclair State University (MSU). She currently works in the field of curriculum and professional development, splitting her time between teaching and serving as a grant coordinator for MSU’s College of Education and Human Services. She was a featured speaker at MSU’s Early Childhood Autism Institute Conference for Parents in 2009 and 2010 and the Interdisciplinary Council for Developmental Learning Disorders Annual Conference in 2011.
And now, without further ado, Francesca’s first post:
A Peek Beneath My Bookshelves
You can tell a lot about people by the books they collect. When visiting friends and family, I can’t help but sneak a peek at their bookshelves—it’s more revealing than what’s in their medicine cabinet. When I first meet someone, I wonder, what and who do you like to read? Are your books cataloged Dewey-style or lying in Tower-of-Pisa stacks around the house? Do you earmark pages and write in margins—or treat your books with kid gloves?
In the upstairs hallway resides a custom-made bookcase that safeguards carefully organized passions. One side, devoted to everything Shakespeare, includes a bound facsimile of the first folio from which I transcribe unedited adaptations for students. The other holds history, mainly American, notably World War II memoirs (a shared interest with my husband Joe) and works on Thomas Jefferson acquired at a teacher’s seminar at Monticello. (I have to love a man who said, “I cannot live without books.”) The bottom shelves brim with professional teaching books and curriculum guides amassed while teaching upper elementary and middle school humanities. I long to see my own work on education here someday.
Both of my children’s rooms contain lots of books, many yet to be read. Most were purchased before their arrival, but the collections have expanded exponentially. These shelves contain memories of shared experiences. An autographed Time for Bed was the first book I read to both of them.
Christopher, who has autism, has his favorites, which almost always involve numbers, repeating verses, and visual patterns—Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and its sequel 123, Freight Train in three formats: board book, hardcover, and big book. There are books that allow Joe and me to use “high affect,” a teaching term for reading with exaggerated verbal and facial expression to gain and hold his attention. Christopher loves my high-pitched baby bird in Are You My Mother? My attempt at Put Me in the Zoo was met with his first, “I want Daddy!” Sandra Boynton books always elicit precious laughs.
In between Ava’s Pinkalicious and My Little Ponies are gems that reveal her sense of humor and sophistication: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Corduroy, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and This Is Not a Box. Fairy tales are a staple.
Prominently displayed is Home for a Bunny. Both children love this book, and so do I. In our reading, the white bunny (Ava) invites the brown bunny (Christopher) into her home and they live happily ever after.
On my side of my and Joe’s bedroom rests a large basket containing my eye candy. Lighter reads like (I confess) Twilight, but also the Hunger Games trilogy. There’s my wine and chocolate: Christie, Holt, Harkness, and a revolving borrowing of historical romances (they’re history, not romance!) and historical mysteries with their small—or large, thank you—helping of romance: Michaels, Parris, Liss. And my e-reader (gasp), which makes nibbling cheesy romances embarrassment-free!
Among the stack on my nightstand are Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Gift from the Sea, Band of Brothers, Pride and Prejudice, Parenting the Child with Special Needs, Gone with the Wind, The Odyssey, Thinking in Pictures, The Fountainhead, and To Kill a Mockingbird. These are my most beloved books, collected over thirty years and still gathering.
These are the books that hearten and heal me—they are my guardians as I sleep and dream.
Stop back to read Francesca’s next post
about the pages and patterns in her life…