Creativity in Public Spaces and the Importance of Bookshelves

I recently read Kelley Frank’s post (my sister and BFF) on making art in public and why it’s a good idea, and it got me thinking.

Growing up I was exposed to so much creativity. There was knitting, needlepoint, piano, clarinet, cooking, and of course, painting. Besides the piano, which obviously took up a good chunk of the living room, few artistic endeavors were given dedicated space in our house. Clarinet playing happened in the bedroom, painting in the kitchen, but books were given their own room entirely. We had our own home library, with at least four bookshelves, and more stacks of books that wouldn’t fit into the shelves.

Both of my parents collected tons of books, and still do, from biographies to comic books, from advanced calculus textbooks to steamy romances, they had a ton to choose from. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was younger, but books were worth the expense. We would scour bargain bins at department stores and check out the sale racks at Barnes and Nobles. Growing up with access to that many books seemed just normal to me. I would be able to check out a book series my mom had read as a kid, or read adventure novels that my dad collected. I could read books my older sister had read when she was a kid. We had most of the Babysitter’s club, a ton of Stephen King, and at least one encyclopedia set. It was a shock when I visited my friends’ homes and found they didn’t have a library at home, or even a full bookshelf.

“I do it because I think particularly in this country people are so distanced from literature, the way it’s taught in schools, that they think that people who write are magicians on a mountaintop somewhere, […] And I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s so much illiteracy in this country. So by doing it in public, I show people it’s a job … like being a plumber or an electrician.”

Harlan Ellison

In Kelley’s post, she focuses on the importance of seeing art performed in public, and how the act of doing the artwork drew the attention of some kids on a field trip. For me as a child, everybody in my family was creative in some way. I was surrounded by it all the time. While books certainly can’t be written in public (though it has been done before!), the fact that you sacrifice precious space in your home for books is a very telling decision. It speaks to the importance of books without having to see them performed.

But what do you think?

Do you think having a bookshelf at home stuffed with books helps kids realize the importance of them? Or do you think that kind of clutter isn’t necessary? I knew kids growing up that owned only 5 books, but those books had been read 20 times at least. Ebooks add a whole different dimension to the conversation too!

7 thoughts on “Creativity in Public Spaces and the Importance of Bookshelves

  1. This is an interesting topic. I can see how a bookshelf would encourage kids to read, but an overwhelming bookshelf might send easily-intimidated kids outside to play away from too-many-choices. Maybe the key is the children need to see the parents reading, actually engaging in quality time with a book whether it’s from a large bookshelf or a minimalist e-reader.

  2. What a wonderful written piece you have here! We always realized the importance of books and education. We felt that a variety of books in the house gave our kids ways to find themselves and where they wanted to be in life. Parents need to give up their demand for ‘control’ and allow their children to become smarter and stronger in mind than they are. There are many avenues in life’s journey that are opened for those who read. Reading allows us to believe that anything is possible.

  3. Your environment is so important for creativity. Just thinking of art class in school with the mess of paint and tools to create. Without words or explanation, a space can speak to you and motivate you to start creating!

    • This is a really good point! Just having so many books around adds to the environment for the kids. I hadn’t thought of comparing to an art class, but you’re right!

  4. I agree. I grew up with books and I’m so thankful that I did. I like the feel of the book and the slightly dusty smell of the pages. When you grew up without the vacations and trips, you could always find it in a book. I love books and was always curious, how was this book written? Great advice.

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