While some parents and educators struggle to get their children to appreciate literature, one Forest Park Public Library employee seems to have magically discovered the missing link connecting 21st-century children with the iconic neighborhood library.

For the past three years, Rosie Camargo has brought her passion for reading and creativity to encourage Forest Park youth and their families to get involved in reading and making it fun. Her efforts were recently recognized when Camargo was awarded the 2016 Golden Ticket Award from the Illinois Library Association’s Youth Services Forum at the ILA’s Annual Conference held in Rosemont on Oct. 18.

The ILA presents the Golden Ticket Award every year to someone who has demonstrated outstanding contributions to library services for youth in their local community. Youth Services Manager Susan Farnum nominated Camargo for the award.

“She told me she nominated me for it, [but] I kind of forgot about it,” Camargo explained. “Then, when I got the call, I Googled [the award]. It was very moving to know that a lot of librarians are nominated across the state of Illinois for their work. It meant a lot when they said I won. A lot of people have done some incredible things in their library. It was a very humbling and overwhelming feeling.”

At the library, Camargo provides a plethora of outreach services, from intern training and summer reading program coordination to developing unique library programs for children from all backgrounds.

Recent examples of programs coordinated by Camargo include weekly bilingual storytimes for Hispanic families, Spanish language programs, play group sessions for children of all ages and collaborations with local businesses.

Specific examples of her most popular programs include a therapy dog program in partnership with PAWS Chicago, a storytime parade with morning and afternoon sessions, and music and craft lessons. She remains dedicated to celebrating the wide range of cultures in Forest Park with programs incorporating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Chinese New Year and a “Passport to Fun” program focusing on multiple cultures.

As the library’s storytime coordinator, Camargo plans a lot of the sessions, doing everything from picking a theme to making sure programs encompass different age groups and interests. 

Camargo, a resident of Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood, brings years of programming experience and local knowledge to her library roles as youth services outreach assistant and storytime coordinator. She holds a library technical assistant certification from Wilbur Wright College and joined the Forest Park Public Library a few years ago after working at Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park for over 16 years. 

Camargo said the best way to describe her role is the person who gets to bring all of the great things the library has to offer to the children of the community.

“I do the storytimes at preschools, daycares, the park district and local businesses,” she said. “We do a lot of outreach.”

While she now has an intern who helps her plan and run the programs, Camargo says she still remains hands on in her approach to engaging the children of Forest Park.

“Right now, we’re doing a storytime at Junction Diner on Tuesdays,” she said. “We try to service the community as much as we can.”

Camargo said targeting a wide range of ability levels and multicultural events through the library allows her to create a reading and learning community unique to the village.

“I try and incorporate [different cultures] so people can see the diversity in the community,” she said. “This session, I have ‘My Voice, My Story,’ where I’m asking people in the community to come and have a question-and-answer about their culture and include a craft for younger children. Kids need that because we’re a big melting pot in Forest Park.”

Camargo’s favorite thing about working in Forest Park is the dedication of so many families.

“In the three years I’ve been here, I’ve seen various cycles of kids move in or move out, but it’s wonderful to see them come in and say, ‘We love what you do,’ and see these kids in the community grow and become a part of that growth with them,” she said.

Despite the number of new technologies vying for children’s attention, Camargo said, libraries and programs like hers remain as relevant as ever.

“When the kids come to storytime, you really see them blossom when they interact with each other, and it’s happening through that reading experience,” she said. “Very rarely do you get a kid just to read. I want them to feel like, ‘Wow, that was fun, I can’t wait to read this book again.’ I love watching the parents do crafts with the kids because it has that bonding experience for them. You can give them an iPad and walk away, but what are they getting from that? 

“When you bring them to the library and have them experience literature interactively, that’s where you’re fostering the love of reading.”