With a new children’s book series, two local counselors aim to empower and engage children facing difficult emotional challenges.
In July, professional advisors Jane Monica McCurdy and Kristin Corrigan Mendes released the first post in their “Clementine Gets Hurt!” series. “Clementine Gets UNSTUCK!”. They have also created a companion digital program, KidsCanClub.com, which builds lessons into books with free activities, games, healthy exercises, and more. Their overall goal is to promote empowerment, participation, and agency among children, while giving them emotional wellness exercises and tools to do through life.
Mendez and McCurdy, who met in University of Missouri – St. LouisBoth have a master’s degree in counseling, and they hope to engage and empower young readers through the project. Before moving into consulting, they both had a background in marketing, and they often talked about collaborating on a project. With all the additional mental health challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they felt the time was right now.
“It’s really hard being a kid now,” McCurdy said. “It is difficult to be a parent at the moment, and it is difficult to be a teacher at the moment. If there is something we can do on this scale to support these teachers and families, it has been one of our goals.”
The first book in the new series, “Clementine Gets UNSTuck!,” was released on July 27. The book follows Clementine, a neurotic third grader whose “squeezing”, “zinging” and “tangled” thoughts leave her feeling “stuck”. She finds a solution to her problems while at school, and decides to start a “kids club” to help her classmates and others solve their own problems.
Unlike many other children’s wellness books, McCurdy and Mendes specifically chose not to format their book as a workbook. Instead, they choose to work with illustrator Dana Reagan and convey the emotional challenges depicted in the book as part of the main character’s story, weaving the wellness paraphernalia offered as a plot solution. By doing so, they hope to present these ideas in a more exciting and engaging way to young readers.
“We wanted to write in a way that was fun and grabbed the attention of the kids,” Mendes said. “We want the kids to engage with the story, engage in the exercise, engage with the characters and say, ‘I can see myself in this. “
“I think children learn through the story,” McCurdy added. “I think when we work with children, one of the best ways to teach them is to sit down and read stories together — we’re going to read that story, show it, and then what can we do to act on who — that? It’s just another step forward in the approach to action.”
Likewise, McCurdy and Mendes specifically chose not to use diagnostic labels to describe the challenges each child faces in the books. Instead of saying that Clementine has ADHD, for example, they use words like “zipping,” “zinging,” and “cangling” to describe her thoughts.
But the book is just a starting point for their great vision. McCurdy and Mendes hope to further engage and empower children through their “Kids Can Club” website, where they explain to children how they can start a help club, with the support of trusted adults such as parents, teachers and counsellors. As part of the club, children undertake, organize their own club, take on assistance missions and report on their successes.
“What we wanted to do with the club was to expand the children’s learning in the book,” Mendes said. “It allows us to transfer the exercises and solutions from the book to the club, with a pledge on the site that helps empower children. Children can take what they have learned and highlight it.”
The couple plans to release additional books that highlight the different kids at the club, all working through different emotional issues. But they have learned that the process of publishing a book is a long and arduous process, and life moves quickly. To that end, in between book printing, they plan to publish additional content on the Kids Can Club website, including mini stories, games, videos, and coloring pages. To stay on time, they also plan to publish seasonal content, such as gratitude lessons on the holidays, for example. A lot of the content will be geared toward kids, but they’ll also have tools for parents and educators as well.
“The way we see the site is just an ever-evolving tool for teachers and parents to work with their children and help identify different emotions,” McCurdy said. “In helping others, we help ourselves. For example, Clementine’s thoughts are tense and stressed and she just sinks in, and then she learns this tool. She has this clarity and she’s like, ‘Oh my God, I want to share it with my friends.'” This is a way to help others, but it helps. She also incorporates herself more into her system and her body. If we can teach our children now to be those kinds of people and citizens, the world might be a better place.”
“Clementine breaks!” They can be purchased through Amazon, BookBaby Bookshop, Left Bank Books, Target, and more.
short URL: https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/?p=94976