Skip Navigation
Inquire
Schedule a tour Schedule a Tour
Donate
cogs
cogs
cogs
News

The Siena School Blog

Discover, Learn, Celebrate, and Empower

Welcome to Siena's blog, your source for helpful, cutting-edge resources tailored to teachers, parents, and other advocates in the learning differences community. We are dedicated to providing a wealth of curated knowledge spanning various topics, ranging from dyslexia advocacy and awareness to classroom teaching strategies, heritage month profiles, and social and emotional health.

 

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Sally Gardner and Laurie Halse Anderson

February 27, 2024
By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator

“Women from every background have long realized that an uneven playing field will never bring equality or justice. Many feel the critical need to speak up and work harder for fairness in our institutions and social interactions.” —National Women’s History Alliance

 

Women Writers with Dyslexia  

The theme of Women’s History Month 2024 is Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Siena celebrates Sally Gardner and Laurie Halse Anderson, two writers with dyslexia whose years of work in the arts have helped tell inclusive stories about diverse topics and characters.

As the National Women’s History Alliance reminds us,

During 2024, we recognize the example of women who are committed to embracing everyone and excluding no one in our common quest for freedom and opportunity. They know that people change with the help of families, teachers, and friends and that young people in particular need to learn the value of hearing from different voices with different points of view as they grow up.

Sally Gardner 

Diagnosed with a learning difference at age 11, Gardner worked for many years in theatre set design and visual arts in her native England. She then pivoted to writing in her mid-40s. Her first book was The Strongest Girl in the World (1999), and her most recent is The Weather Woman (2023). Other notable Gardner books include I, Coriander, The Door That Led to Where, The Double Shadow, and Tinder. Her books include diverse character types and frequently overlap imaginative stories and historical or fairy tale settings.

 

See Sally Gardner’s website for a full list of her books for young readers. She’s also a participating artist with artist and dyslexia advocate Gil Gershoni’s Dyslexic Dictionary project.

Disobedience is a part of being dyslexic. A refusal to be classified, to adhere to rules without answers. A defiance against mediocrity. To disobey is to believe in the power of imagination to alter situations. To leave those behind who tell you things must be done the same as they were always done. —Sally Gardner

Laurie Halse Anderson

 

Diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, Anderson received early intervention for reading and speech learning differences in school. To learn more about her background, see this series of short videos about her life and work from Reading Rockets, where Anderson discusses her schooling and use of haiku as her entry point into writing.

Anderson has written many picture books and young adult novels on a variety of historical and contemporary subjects, including censorship, sexual assault, and eating disorders. Her first book was Ndito Runs (1996), and her newest is Rebellion 1776 (forthcoming, October 2024). Other notable Anderson books include Chains, Shout, Speak (adapted into a movie in 2004), and The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School.

See Laurie Halse Anderson's website for a full list of her young adult, historical fiction, and picture books, as well as a list of her many awards and honors. There are also educators’ guides and discussion questions for selected books.

I write about the things that teenagers have to deal with every day. Many of them have to cope with hard things, sadly. When they read books about similar experiences, they feel less alone. Those kids who are lucky enough to have wonderful, trauma-free lives can learn what it’s like to not be so lucky from my books. That helps them develop empathy and compassion.  —Laurie Halse Anderson
 

Resources and Events for Women’s History Month

Here are some resources and local events commemorating Women’s History Month 2024:

Siena Resources 

The Siena School blog has other Heritage Month spotlights related to innovative dyslexia education, including WNBA stars A’Ja Wilson and Jewell Loyd and Olympian Meryl Davis for past Women’s History Month posts.

See also our blog posts on Native American book recommendations, Mexican writer and activist Victor Villaseñor, Chicano artist Ignacio Gomez, and NFL star Rashan Gary, and others.

Learn more about Siena’s commitments and ongoing initiatives for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

Black History Month: Siena Community Playlist

February 13, 2024
By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator

The theme of Black History Month 2024 is African Americans and the Arts.  Since the musical arts have been so culturally fundamental in Black American history, Siena is celebrating this rich musical tradition by highlighting the important work our community has done in generating shared playlists.

Music in Black Culture

As Steven Lewis wrote in Musical Crossroads: African American Influence on American Music,

The music of African Americans is one of the most poetic and inescapable examples of the importance of the African American experience to the cultural heritage of all Americans, regardless of race or origin. [...] Over the centuries, African American musicians have drawn on the ancestral connection to Africa as a source of pride and inspiration.

Recognizing this widespread historical importance of Black music, some Siena students created a playlist of songs meaningful to them in a weekly multicultural affinity group. For high school senior Ash, “We’re happy to talk about something as important to us as music in the group. The playlist is a fun new thing Siena did this year for Black History Month, and it’d  be great to see it happen during other heritage months.” 

Inspired by this group of students, Siena teachers and staff members collaborated on their own Black music playlist, recommending a mix of over 70 songs from the 20th and 21st centuries. Here are just a few songs from this diverse community playlist:

“We wanted to share our version back with the students about music that matters to us,” history teacher Warren Phenegar added. “We also shared why these songs are important to us, ranging from historical importance to specific personal or emotional reasons.” Both Ash and a classmate shared that they learned about many new songs from the teacher playlist and are seeing this as an ongoing learning experience.

See the Siena Faculty BHM Playlist on Spotify. (Note: some songs have an “E” rating for explicit content.)
 

Black Music Book and Podcast Recommendations

Those looking for recent books can try Kelefah Sanneh’s Major Labels and Questlove’s Music Is History to get started. For additional Black music book recommendations, see 15 Books About the Impact of Black Music on Pop Culture (Teen Vogue), Books for Black Music Appreciation Month (Penguin Random House), and Popular Black Music Books (Goodreads).

For Black music podcasts, see All Music Is Black Music (National Museum of African American History and Culture), Black Music Matters, Questlove Supreme, and Black Girl Songbook, among many others.

See also this very rich and useful piece on African American Music from Smithsonian Music, which includes some featured playlists, learning modules, and videos.

Siena Resources 

See this Black History Month 2024 blog post about Black writers with dyslexia LeDerick Horne and Marcia Brissett-Bailey. Our blog has other heritage month spotlights related to innovative dyslexia education, including Native American book recommendations, Mexican writer and activist Victor Villaseñor, Chicano artist Ignacio Gomez, WNBA stars A’Ja Wilson and Jewell Loyd, NFL star Rashan Gary, and others.

Learn more about Siena’s commitments and ongoing initiatives for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Black History Month Spotlight: LeDerick Horne and Marcia Brissett-Bailey

January 26, 2024
By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator

The theme of Black History Month 2024 is African Americans and the Arts. The arts in all their forms have always been instrumental to Black culture. Since art has been one of our core values from the beginning, Siena is highlighting a pair of contemporary Black writers with dyslexia, as well as sharing some reading and other resources to commemorate this important month.

Writer and Poet LeDerick Horne

 

Poet, speaker, and advocate LeDerick Horne grew up in New Jersey and received an early dyslexia diagnosis (3rd grade). This laid the foundation for his decades of writing, speaking, and advocacy work on behalf of the LD community and Black identity.

Here are some key points in Horne’s career thus far:

  • Horne did foundational work on the governing board of Eye to Eye, a nonprofit mentoring program for LD students. He’s on the advisory board for The National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-Determination, and Employment (RAISE), and he’s a member of the governing board for the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education.
  • Horne’s many honors and associations include LDA, Eye to Eye, NAACP, The White House, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as many presentations and media appearances.
  • Horne coauthored Empowering Students with Hidden Disabilities: A Path to Pride and Success with Margo Izzo (2016), a guidebook collecting personal stories and strategies for teachers and families.
  • He has also released two spoken word poetry collections, Black and Blue in 2011 and Rhyme, Reason, and Song in 2005 (both available on Apple Music). Horne has also been profiled on Poets List and in the short documentary Normal Isn’t Real, among many other platforms.

“What is funny—and ironic—for those of us who have learning disabilities is that the challenges that we were chastised for as children end up becoming these extremely valuable tools out here in the marketplace.” (LeDerick Horne)

 

Writer and Advocate Marcia Brissett-Bailey

Writer, speaker, and dedicated dyslexia and neurodiversity advocate Marcia Brissett-Bailey grew up in London and received her dyslexia diagnosis at age 16. “I no longer felt stupid” upon hearing about her learning difference, she has shared.

Here are some key points in Brissett-Bailey’s career thus far: 

 
  • She is currently Further Education Partnerships Lead at Diversity and Ability, leading their support and guidance for young people under 18, as well as their parents and caregivers, schools, and colleges.
  • She edited Black, Brilliant and Dyslexic: Neurodivergent Heroes Tell their Stories (2023), a collection of first-person pieces from the Black dyslexic community from an international, intersectional perspective. In her words, “My book takes us on a journey to challenge structural racism and years of trauma on people who are marginalized by different forms of oppression and may only come forward when they feel safe to be their whole selves.”
  • Brissett-Bailey edited a special issue of Contact magazine in October 2021 that highlights the important work of the British Dyslexia Association Cultural Perspective Committee. 
  • Among other places, Brissett-Bailey has been profiled in Forbes, Business Forums International, and British Dyslexia Association, as well as the Move Beyond Words podcast.

“Dyslexia is daily…but I wouldn’t be authentically me without dyslexia as it’s giving me so many advantages…in seeing the world through a creative lens. My high-level thinking, seeing the bigger picture visually, hyper-focus on my interests, seeing patterns others do not see and conceptual thinking.” (Marcia Brissett-Bailey)


Resources for African American Arts and Culture

See Arts Resources from the Smithsonian for a wealth of local events, spotlights, podcast recommendations, museum exhibits, and more commemorating Black History Month.

The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Anacostia has a series of events commemorating Black History Month and the 206th anniversary of Douglass’s birth. Those interested in books by Frederick Douglass can read his three autobiographies (Narrative of the Life, My Bondage and My Freedom, and Life and Times), as well as selected speeches and his only novel, The Heroic Slave.

In addition to the Douglass Historic Site, the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site and Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site in DC are also offering weekly programs and special events this month.

Lastly, some recent fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books by Black authors to look up include:

Fans of the recent Color Purple film can go back and read Alice Walker’s 1982 novel, as well as her foundational works In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens (1982) and Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992).

Siena Resources

The Siena School blog has other heritage month spotlights related to innovative dyslexia education, including Native American book recommendations, Mexican writer and activist Victor Villaseñor, Chicano artist Ignacio Gomez, WNBA stars A’Ja Wilson and Jewell Loyd, NFL star Rashan Gary, and others.

Learn more about Siena’s commitments and ongoing initiatives for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

Recent Posts

2/27/24 - By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator
2/13/24 - By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator
1/26/24 - By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator
1/4/24 - By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator
12/4/23 - By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator
10/31/23 - By Joe Fruscione, Communications, Content, and Advancement Coordinator

Categories

Archives

Explore Siena