Two UMSL Counseling Alumni Launch Series of Books to Help Children Overcome Emotional Challenges – UMSL Daily


Clementine loosens up! is a new children’s book written by two former UMSL students. (Cover courtesy of Jen Monika McCurdy and Christine Corrigan Mendez)

With a new series of children’s books, two local counselors aim to empower and engage children facing difficult emotional challenges.

In July, licensed professional counselors Jen Monika McCurdy and Christine Corrigan Mendez released “Clementine Gets UNSTUCK!”, the first publication in the “Kids Can Club” series. They have also created an accompanying digital program,, which builds on lessons from the books with free activities, games, wellness exercises and more. Their overall goal is to promote empowerment, engagement and agency in children, while giving them emotional well-being exercises and tools they can carry throughout life.

Mendez and McCurdy, who met at University of Missouri-St. Louis, where they both earned their masters in counseling, hope to engage and empower young readers through the project. Before getting into consulting, the two had a background in marketing and often talked about collaborating on a project. With all the additional mental health issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, they felt the time was right now.

“It’s really hard being a kid right now,” McCurdy said. “It’s hard to be a parent right now and it’s hard to be a teacher right now. If there’s anything we can do on that spectrum to support those teachers and their families, it was one of our goals.

The first book in the new series, “Clementine Gets UNSTUCK!”, was released on July 27. The book follows Clementine, a neurodivergent third-grade student whose “zipping”, “zinging”, and “entangled” thoughts leave her feeling “stuck”. She finds a solution to her problems at school and decides to start the “Kids Can Club” to help her classmates and others solve their own problems.

Jen Monika McCurdy and Christine Corrigan Mendez

Authors Jen Monika McCurdy and Christine Corrigan Mendez met while pursuing their masters in counseling at UMSL. (Photo courtesy of Jen Monika McCurdy and Christine Corrigan Mendez)

Unlike many other children’s wellness books, McCurdy and Mendez specifically chose not to format their book as a binder. Instead, they chose to work with illustrator Dana Regan and convey the emotional challenges depicted in the book as part of the main character’s story, incorporating the wellness tools offered as a solution in the book. ‘plot. In doing so, they hope to present these ideas in a more exciting and engaging way for young readers.

“We wanted to write in an interesting way and grab the kids’ attention,” Mendez said. “We want kids to engage with the story, engage with the exercise, engage with the characters, and say, ‘I can see myself in this’.”

“I believe children learn by story,” McCurdy added. “I think when we work with children one of the best ways to teach them is to sit down and read the stories together – we’ll read that story, have it demonstrated and then what can we do to take action. It’s just about taking it a step further in a more action-oriented approach.

Likewise, McCurdy and Mendez specifically chose not to use diagnostic labels to describe the challenges each child faces in the books. Rather than saying that Clementine has ADHD, for example, they use words like “zipping”, “zinging” and “tangling” to describe her thoughts.

But the book is only a starting point for their grand vision. McCurdy and Mendez hope to engage and further empower children through the “Kids Can Club” website, where they teach children how they can start a help club, supported by trusted adults such as parents, teachers and caregivers. advisers. As part of the club, children get involved, organize their own club, undertake missions of mutual aid and report on their successes.

“What we wanted to do with the club is expand the learning of kids in the book,” Mendez said. “It allows us to bring the exercises and solutions from the book to the club, with an engagement on the site that helps empower children. Children can take what they have learned and put it into practice.

The couple plan to release additional books that highlight different kids at the club, all of whom work through different emotional issues. But they learned that the process of publishing a book is long and arduous and that life moves quickly. To that end, between book printings, they plan to post additional content on the Kids Can Club website, including mini-stories, games, videos, and coloring pages. To keep up to date, they also plan to release seasonal content, like lessons on gratitude around the holidays, for example. Much of the content will be geared towards children, but they will also have tools for parents and teachers.

“The way we see the website is just this ever-evolving tool for teachers and parents to work with their kids and help identify different feelings,” McCurdy said. “By helping others, we help ourselves. For example, Clementine’s thoughts zap and zap and she’s just overwhelmed, and then she learns this tool. She has this clarity and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I want to share this with my friends.’ It’s a way of helping others, but she’s also helping herself and integrating it more into her system and her body. If we can teach our children now to be these types of people and citizens, the world could be a better place.

“Clementine is getting loose! can be purchased through Amazon, BookBaby Bookshop, Left Bank Books, Target and more.

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