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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.

Storytime Isn't Just For Campfires - Document Memories For Yourself and Loved Ones

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

Some people share their days of old at family gatherings. An organization serving northwest Illinois counties is offering those residents a chance to document this history.

The University of Illinois Extension is offering “Share Your Life Story: A Writing Series” workshops starting this month. Sessions take place in different locations during the spring and fall. 

Karla Belzer is the family life educator with the Extension. She said documenting your own stories is not just for loved ones.

“It is for ourselves internally. When we document our life experiences,” she explained,” “it kind of serves as an opportunity for life review, which life review is a developmental task of aging.” 

Participants are given a suggested writing topic each week. Belzer mentioned that most people like to reflect on their childhoods.

These sessions have taken place for the last several years. Belzer stated that some cities only have them once, due to lack of interest, while others look forward to documenting their lives every year.

Belzer said workshops in Dixon evolved into something more.

“And the class members liked it so much that they decided that they were still going to meet once a month as a group, and they meet in one of the class member’s home," she said.

Belzer said she understands that not everyone can attend the sessions in their area.

“I like to start with just questions,” she explained. “You can find doing an internet search -- you can find a list of life story questions, pick one and just write.”

She said this type of writing can be transformative and healing.  

Belzer is also suggesting that these stories can leave a legacy for loved ones.

The first session starts March 17 and runs until April 21 in Thomson at the main library.  Sessions for Dixon and Sterling are coming later this year.  Check the Extension’swebsite for updates. 

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.