National Day of Listening: A Better Use of a Friday


Whether the reasons are ideological, demophobia-based, or a little bit of both, many of us would rather avoid today's mass shopping chaos. As an alternative to Black Friday, Story Corps is promoting today as the National Day of Listening--an opportunity to sit down for an hour with family members and other people you care about, ask them about their lives and preserve their stories for future generations.

At the National Day of Listening site, you'll find helpful How To's for recording and preserving family stories and a question generator, to help you get over that "what the heck do I ask Grandma?" hump.

Your family stories can also become part of the oral history archives at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress. To do that, though, you'll have to get hooked up with a Story Corps professional recording session. They've got semi-permanent booths in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta, and they're traveling the country with a portable system all year.

Image courtesy Flickr user Adam Selwood, via CC.


  1. Isn’t there generally a lot of listening and storytelling going on on Thanksgiving itself, seeing as how that’s when extended families are likely to get together?

  2. “what the heck do I as Grandma?”

    Okay, I can’t figure this one out. Is there something missing from this sentence?

  3. I think it’s missing a ‘k’.

    And, as luck would have have it, my nine-year-old interviewed me today for a class report. Asked me mostly about my childhood, family and relationships. But I got to slip in some good solid parental advice in the process.

    So not only is it Listening Day, it’s also Get-Listened-To Day, which is always a nice change with a nine-year-old.

  4. Unfortunately most of my family has already passed away, from Grandpa who drove a horse-drawn ‘schoolbus’ at the turn of the century, to my Great-Aunt who was a ‘Rosie the Riveter’ or my maiden Aunt who never married after her beau went off and died in ‘nam. I wish someone had prodded me to record those stories back when I had the chance.

  5. Typo: you wrote “to as Grandma” instead of ask. Also, cool idea, too bad my family would think it’s silly. They have a tendency to think that great things are silly and silly things are great.

  6. Thank you! My Dad is getting on, and I’ve been meaning to preserve his stories. First, I need to label all the old family photos, but this site will help with the conversation.

  7. “I think it’s missing a ‘k’.”

    D’oh! Thank you. That was driving me crazy…I’m obviously not good at word games.

    My dad has fantastic stories to tell, but the problem is you can’t just ask him. It doesn’t work. What works is a family dinner, wine, and apple pie.

  8. At least in my family, the Friday after Thanksgiving, like Boxing Day, is a day for doing nothing, in order to recuperate from the trials of the day before. This usually involves keeping relatives as far away as possible.

    Why would I want to have a conversation with my grandmother the day after Thanksgiving? I just had a conversation with her and other relatives the day before, for ten straight hours, during which I was essentially required to keep them from being bored, keep them from arguing, and not let them out of my sight. I don’t particularly want to do that for a second day. Besides, with my relatives, asking these sorts of questions would just result in answers that would sound like a PR consultant wrote them.

  9. We found a book at a gift store that had all these interesting questions written out and a blank space for the answers. I gave it to my grandfather and he took a few months to fill it out and gave it back. It is full of the sweetest snapshots of his life and, more interestingly, snapshots of what life was like 60, 70, 80 years ago… Something else to consider if the one-on-one interview feels too awkward. I think you can get the books online (mine is from Linkages Memory Journals) but you could make your own. Definitely worth it.

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