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‘How Are You Today?’ Book Helps Kids Talk Through Their Emotions

Odell (left) and Linda Mitchell (right) are the husband-and-wife team who published “How Are You Today? A Celebration of Children’s Emotions.”
Odell Mitchell Jr.
Odell (left) and Linda Mitchell (right) are the husband-and-wife team who published “How Are You Today? A Celebration of Children’s Emotions.”

Ten years ago, Linda Mitchell sought to put together a book using images her husband, Odell, had captured of their children throughout the years. Mitchell wanted to use the candid photos to teach children about the range of emotions they could experience.

The duo used Adobe InDesign to lay out several iterations of the book, but Mitchell didn’t quite follow through with fully publishing it. That’s despite printing out an emailed quote from a professional designer. She kept it on her wall for years, thinking about whether to spend the money.

In the last year, she finally went for it.

“I just said, ‘I have to get out of the dugout; just get out there and do this,’” Mitchell explained on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air. “Because I kept thinking, ‘You know what, I'm in the last third of my life. This has got to happen. It's now or never.’”

Odell Mitchell Jr. is a retired St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer, so the photos were always top-notch. “How Are You Today? A Celebration of Children’s Emotions” now includes professional design, as well as additional images of children with multiethnic backgrounds and a nod to the digital age with emoji graphics.

Book Trailer: How Are You Today? A Celebration of Children's Emotions by Linda M. Mitchell

The new book introduces new vocabulary and incorporates aspects of social and emotional learning, aimed at helping children acquire skills to effectively understand and process their emotions. Questions in the book make it an interactive activity.

“Teachers and parents will tell kids, ‘Use your words, don't just kick and scream and have tantrums.’ … Well, they may not have the words. And so as adults, we want to guide them to express those words,” Mitchell explained. “In fact, the CDC says that social and emotional learning is one of those things that helps in dealing with trauma in kids.”

Based in O’Fallon, Illinois, Mitchell is also the founder of the Metro East Literacy Project. She and her husband hope to bring other projects to life in the coming year: “Love Me Always, A Celebration of Children Growing Up” and “What Can I Do? A Celebration of Children Learning.”

While the books are geared toward a pre-kindergarten through elementary school audience, Mitchell’s “Literacy Journey with Linda” YouTube channel is for adults and children.

“I believe it's just so inspirational to hear people's literacy journey and talk about how literacy is important in their lives. I think we just kind of take it for granted that, ‘Oh, everybody can read or write.’ But that's not true. We've got millions … who are not able to read proficiently,” she explained. “I just think this is a very important issue. And I like to talk about it whenever I can.”

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St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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