St. Louis counselors launch children’s book series to promote mental health

All it took was one particularly cute baby name to get Christine Corrigan Mendez and Jen Monika McCurdy into their passion project.

St. Louis Licensed Professional Counselors had been considering writing a book on child well-being for some time, and the youth mental health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic has made such a resource even more vital. . Then, in August 2021, as Mendez stood on his back porch, an idea came to mind. One of her extended family members recently gave birth to a baby named Clementine. “And I thought, ‘Oh my God!’ said Mendez. “What a wonderful name – who could Clementine be? What could this story be?

From there, a series of books was born.

Clementine loosens up! the first installment at Mendez’s and McCurdy’s Kids Can Club collection, will be released on July 27. The book tells the story of Clementine, a cheerful third grader who is determined to work on her mental health and untangle the messy thoughts racing through her head so she can better communicate with her peers. Readers follow Clementine as she navigates a normal school day and learns a simple wellness exercise from her school counselor to help calm her mind. Armed with this knowledge, Clémentine forms a club to help other children: the Kids Can Club.

And yet, the club is not confined to the pages of a book. The series will show young readers how they too can start wellness clubs to help themselves, the environment and even adults. In this sense, the book is much more than a children’s picture book. It’s also an educational tool that takes the engaging elements of graphic novels and combines them with wellness resources explained in a way that school-aged children can understand. As the pandemic has illustrated, it is crucial that children learn these wellness exercises at a young age.

“That’s the hope with accessibility: empowering them to use whatever tools will work for them, adapting them to what’s needed at the time, and then maybe becoming a little more grounded” , says McCurdy.

Mendez and McCurdy first met while attending graduate counseling school at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. They later realized they had similar interests and worked well as a team, forming a program to help other counselors learn how to get licensed. Now they hope to make an impact with children through the rollout of their Kids Can Club series.

Clementine loosens up! is just the beginning. The co-authors plan to launch additional books soon. Each will feature new characters who find solutions to different problems. Between book releases, Mendez and McCurdy plan to post short stories online so kids can read and respond to current wellness-related events in real time. The goal, Mendez says, is to use children’s journeys to empower, engage, and create authentic representation for neurodivergent children.

“It’s about being able to get kids to look and say, ‘I see myself here,'” Mendez explains.

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