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Clinical assistant professor honored by international board

Kathryn Kao

June 6, 2017

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Petros Panaou, a clinical associate professor in the department of language and literacy education, recently received an award from the Cyprus section of the International Board on Books for Young People for a Greek science fiction manuscript he wrote last year.

Representing an international network of people from all over the world, the International Board on Books for Young People is a non-profit organization that brings books and children together. Panaou became a member of the U.S. section and a state ambassador of the organization after serving as a board member of the Cyprus section for several years. His manuscript, which was judged in a blind review process along with novels submitted by Greek-speaking authors from around the world, will likely be published as a result of the recognition.

“I love children’s literature, and I have been studying and teaching it for decades,” said Panaou. “This honor enables me to become more involved in the creative and production side of it as well, which has always been a dream of mine.”

Panaou’s passion for writing developed after reading and sharing stories written by other authors to children and youth, including his 12-year-old son. He is inspired by the enjoyment, amazement and intense emotional responses that are often sparked by these books.

“This was the main reason I got into grad school to study children’s literature in the first place,” said Panaou. “I am not ashamed to say that I am jealous of these stories, and there is nothing that I want more in the world than to create stories myself that can potentially have a similar effect on readers.”

Titled “The Cellphone,” the manuscript follows Renos, a 15-year-old boy growing up in a world plagued by economic depression, racism, xenophobia and extremism. Even when someone is willing to listen, Renos’ shyness and social awkwardness prevent him from communicating with his peers as well as adults. But as clumsy as he is with oral communication, he excels as both a reader and writer. His extraordinary skills with the written word come in handy when he discovers an amazing device that he initially mistakes for a cellphone.

“My hope is that young and old readers will be able to see parts of themselves and their worlds in this story, enjoying it as a science fiction narrative, while also reflecting on and conversing about personal and collective challenges, frustrations, and aspirations,” said Panaou.