Building Community Through Stories

Picture of Jessica Lind
Jessica Lind


The International School of Azerbaijan (TISA) is filled with story lovers. From sharing our summer adventures in August all the way to borrowing stacks of books for summer reading in June, a good tale is never hard to find in our halls. This love is on full display each April during TISA Literacy Month, our annual celebration of reading, writing, and storytelling.

One of the things that makes this celebration so special is the focus on bringing people together through literacy. Independent reading is part of daily life for TISA readers, but during April we look for ways to connect in small groups, classes, divisions, and as a whole community. Our celebration is made up of annual traditions and newly created events that develop from authentic opportunities to bring together students, staff, and parents.

Here are some highlights from this year’s celebration.

Parent Book Study

We kicked off our celebration with a Parent Book Study organized by our counseling team in collaboration with the PTA and library. From a curated list of titles, parent representatives selected Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock, Ruth E. Van Reken, and Michael V. Pollock, with the PTA donating additional copies to the library to support access. The event was attended by long-time members of our community and those who had joined us only weeks earlier. The evening began with open, honest discussion about the unique experience of TCKs (and their parents) and continued as we enjoyed culinary delights prepared by a talented chef and member of our parent community.

Family Pajama Party

Our longest standing tradition is the Family Pajama Party, which began in 2018, even making a virtual appearance in April 2020 while we were engaged in distance learning. This is the coziest party of the year and one that our young story lovers remember fondly. The event offered activities for Primary School students run by staff and Secondary student volunteers. With hot cocoa and treats provided by the PTA, everyone was at maximum comfort and joy. There were readalouds, crafts, art, and so much more.

Visiting Storyteller

In partnership with the PTA, our library had the pleasure of welcoming back traditional storyteller Niall de Búrca to TISA this year as our visiting artist. Niall’s ability to captivate audiences of all ages is unmatched. From the non-stop giggles of ELC students to the intense engagement of high school seniors during stories about the future and their own potential, every student was inspired by storytelling magic during Niall’s three days with us. He reminded us of the importance of storytelling in knowing ourselves, our ancestors, and our world.

Book Character Spirit Day + Open Mic

Each year, we close our Literacy Month with two more collaborations – Book Character Spirit Day sponsored by our Primary and Secondary Student Councils and an Open Mic event courtesy of the Secondary Arts department. In addition to widely-known characters, a number of students selected characters from stories connected with their home languages, sharing new stories and ideas with the community. We love watching our students express themselves through costumes and use music as an avenue for storytelling. Closing our celebration on April 30th also allows us to connect with International Jazz Day, a style of music with a rich history here in Baku.

…And More!

Between all of the big events happening, students across the school also engaged in a variety of activities connected with Literacy Month. There were weekly activities through Primary StuCo reps including word searches and a library-connected estimation challenge, rounds of voting for the TISA Book Awards, and a book fair from a local bookseller offering community members the opportunity to buy books for themselves or to give to others.

Planning is already underway for our 2025 celebration, but, until then, you will find us reading, writing, and telling stories every day of the year.


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