ISB’s First Common Read

Community · September 24, 2019

ISB’s First Common Read

This year, Librarian Maria Falgoust and MYP Coordinator and Middle School Language & Literature Teacher Katie Rogers teamed up to introduce the idea of a “common read” to the entire Middle School student body, as well as ISB’s faculty and staff. Over the summer, all chose to read either We are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai and Liz Welch or Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah.

“I thought that having a common read would be a nice way to connect our students and faculty so that we could all have a shared experience. I love the idea that a 2nd Grade teacher could connect with a 7th Grader who they don’t know.”

-Maria Falgoust, Librarian


Before school was in session, the faculty and staff took a break from their busy classroom preparations and gathered one afternoon to discuss their summer reading. The staff broke into groups across all different language tracks and departments and engaged in powerful conversations with one another about the reading.

“At first, I was not thrilled to be asked to read a book over the summer, as it is the only time of year I read my own books.  To my surprise, We Are Displaced was so gripping that I finished it in one sitting.  The book resonated with me on a very personal level, as I come from Chile and grew up during Pinochet’s regime, and my two older siblings went into exile because their political affiliations made living in our country dangerous. One thing stood out to me from reading this book is the fact that children and women are more vulnerable, yet education is a powerful tool for self-growth and empowerment. Discussing the book with my colleagues was great. Many of us had similar opinions about the stories, and I loved discussing the book with them. It felt like we needed much more time to really share our ideas! Creating a poster together was also fantastic; I loved to put our imaginations to work collaboratively.”

Carolina Bermudez, Spanish Visual Arts Teacher

The following week, students came ready on the first day of school with a one-page response to their reading. The entire Middle School gathered in the gym and posted these colorful, creative, and thoughtful responses all around the gym. Students and teachers spent time doing a “gallery walk,” exploring their classmates’ reflections and interpretations of the books.



“We were impressed with the depth students were able to convey in their one-pagers! It’s a great activity because there are so many opportunities for student choice, which allows many entry points through which to share their ideas and understandings.”

-Katie Rogers, MYP Coordinator and Middle School English Language Literature Teacher

Advisors led mixed-grade level discussion groups, and teachers were impressed with the way that the conversations took off. Next, students returned to the gym for a special assembly with the co-author of We Are Displaced, Liz Welch. Liz spoke about her experience writing the book with Malala Yousafzai and shared some of the stories of the young women from the book.



The common read was inspiring and allowed us to start the year communicating and sharing personal stories as a community. I read the stories compiled by Malala and was reminded of our common humanity, common joys and sufferings as human beings. I felt it also related wonderfully to the theme of the year and our efforts to continue to establish kindness as an important value at ISB.

-Emilie Berger, Middle School French Teacher

“I enjoyed the common read because I enjoyed reading an autobiography about Trevor Noah and then having people to discuss it with. I thought that it was a good book, but there were a lot of interesting events that happened in the book so it was nice having lots of people to discuss them with.”

-Marion, 6th Grade

“Most rewardingly (for me as an English teacher especially), through the Common Read, we were able to acknowledge that reading and discussing literature can help us build community. We were able to create a shared consciousness around ideas of oppression, injustice, resilience, and hope. To me, that was a really amazing thing to see!”

-Katie Rogers, MYP Coordinator and Middle School Language & Literature Teacher

Our first Common Read was a great success and a truly inspiring way to launch into a year of learning together as a community. Take part in ISB’s Common Read yourself! Come and continue the conversation at the first meeting of the Multicultural Book Club on Wednesday, October 16th, from 8:30am-9:30am in the Learning Commons to discuss Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime with fellow parents and staff members

“I also read Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime over the summer and coming into the school and seeing the kids’ one-pagers lining the halls was beautiful. I loved seeing Trevor’s story from the Middle Schoolers’ perspective. This was such a great way to connect the school community.”
-Aliya, 2nd & Kindergarten Parent