This holiday weekend will be about more than Thanksgiving treats and extra days off from school for eighth-grader Shreya Nair. Shreya will also spent some of her time conducting an interview that will end up in the Library of Congress.
Shreya, 13, is participating in a StoryCorps initiative called The Great Thanksgiving Listen. The project encourages students to interview family members and friends about their lives in an effort to preserve the stories and voices of an older generation.
Shreya will be interviewing a family friend who grew up in Brazil.
"It would be interesting to see her perspective on life and how it’s different from mine based on the circumstances she grew up in," Shreya said.
StoryCorp's aim is to use audio to preserve the stories of people of all ages and backgrounds. Students will be able to record their interviews using a new app and upload them to the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
StoryCorps decided to enlist the help of teachers in getting the word out about The Great Thanksgiving Listen through partnering with big districts like Chicago Public Schools and organizations like Teach for America. The hope is that teachers will find a way to incorporate The Great Thanksgiving Listen into their everyday curriculum.
In this previous StoryCorps segment Jamie Showkier interviews his grandfather:
StoryCorps speaks to our mortality. When you're doing these interviews, there's always an awareness that 200 years from now somebody could listen to this," StoryCorps Founder and President Dave Isay said. "It's easy to put off StoryCorps for next year, next year, next year, but by making it an assignment -- although I think in some cases it's voluntary -- it could help nudge people over the hill."
Shreya's English teacher decided to get involved in spreading the word about the project, by assigning the interview as homework. Alison Matthews teaches Shreya at McCall Middle School in Winchester, Massachusetts. She incorporated the StoryCorps interview assignment into a unit on the book, The Giver.
Matthews describes the dystopian novel as a "story about this community where there's one man -- the giver -- who holds all the memories of the community."
"The StoryCorps project fit in so perfectly. The Library of Congress is the keeper of our memories. So I asked kids to think about the importance of memory in our society," Matthews said.
Shreya said that her classmates see the assignment as way better than "your standard, run of the mill English class essay."
"It's an interview that will help us not only understand the book we’re reading right now, but help us later in life," Shreya said.
"One of the things I like about the project is you get to hear so many other people's voices," she added. "Sometimes in this world it feels like our opinion is the only one, but when you sit down and listen, it's amazing what it can bring."