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History in the Telling

Forest Park Review (Oak Park, IL) , August 22, 2006


18 area high school students interviewed senior citizens and wrote shortened versions of the elders' life histories for the Oak Park-River Forest Rotary Club's oral history project.

Rotary recently embarked on a three-year campaign against illiteracy. The organization hopes to combat it locally by publishing the personal histories collected this past spring and using the book sales to fund literacy programs, including a children's literature center at Dominican University.

Rotary Club President Werner Huget contacted Dominican's dean of library science early this year about doing some sort of literacy event in Oak Park. The dean directed Huget to Dominican Professor Janice Del Negro, who proposed "doing something intergenerational," Del Negro recalled. She and Huget decided to initiate a project as part of Rotary's Oak Park Storytelling Festival, held this past June 17. Preparation started several months in advance, as Huget and other Rotary members (some of whom are teachers) sent out an all-points bulletin to area high schools: We need teenagers who will talk to older people.

"I for some time felt that in our Rotary Club, we were losing senior members with a lot of interesting experiences," Huget said, "and that got me to thinking: As they passed away, their stories passed away with them. My thought was, "Let's try and capture some of this history before it's all gone."

Subjects Covered: education, personal storytelling

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