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Stories take creepy out of crawlies for children
IT probably takes a teacher of psychology to do it, but a Worcester lecturer has begun writing short stories aimed at helping young children overcome their fear of spiders.
Dr Jane McGee, who recently graduated from the University of Worcester with a PhD from the Institute of Health and Society, has just published the first in a planned series, with spin-offs to be themed around Halloween and Christmas.
“There are five spiders in the story, both male and female, each with different personalities and they will appeal to both boys and girls,” said Dr McGee. “The aim is to present spiders in a different light, so that children will hopefully grow up to view these fascinating creatures more favourably.”
She had the idea after taking a group of sixth form students to a spider phobia workshop at Dudley Zoo.
“I was well aware of the psychological explanations for spider phobia,” Dr McGee said, “The presenter said that spiders receive a very bad press in popular culture, so I decided to do something about this.
“I began to put pen to paper and write a short story for children aged five to eight with spiders as the central characters. They include AJ, the athletic spider, who can run faster than most of the male spiders in the area, Clay, the mischievous spider, Marley, the sensible spider, Mirabelle, the creative spider, and Orson, the poetic spider who only speaks in rhyme.
“There are various psychological explanations for it, but the prominence of spider phobia may well be the result of the negative portrayal of spiders in a variety of media, including popular children’s stories and modern horror and thriller films such as the US movie Arachnophobia.”
She believes it is time for this to change.
“The majority of spiders are harmless. In fact, there is more chance of getting bitten by a cute kitten than a spider,” she said.
Dr McGee’s stories are being illustrated by Marisa Lewis, who recently graduated with a masters degree in digital media from the University of Worcester.
They can be seen via online publisher Alfie Dog (alfiedog.com). The first is called The Spider That Came In From The Cold and can be viewed under ‘new stories.’