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Authors, illustrators to Obama: standardized tests turn kids off to reading

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(Read caption) Students at Atlanta's Burgess-Peterson Elementary School study at an after-school program shortly before standardized testing will begin, as principal Robin Robbins (center) looks on.

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Is standardized testing in schools making children dislike reading?

That’s the fear of authors and illustrators including Maya Angelou, Jules Feiffer, and Judy Blume, all of whom signed a letter that was sent to President Obama expressing concern that testing is causing students to lose their love of reading. The effort was organized by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. 

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The letter was also published on the FairTest website and it was signed by more than 100 authors and illustrators.

“We the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators write to express our concern for our readers, their parents and teachers,” the letter begins. “We are alarmed at the negative impact of excessive school testing mandates, including your Administration’s own initiatives, on children’s love of reading and literature…. Our public school students spend far too much time preparing for reading tests and too little time curling up with books that fire their imaginations.”

The letter quotes “War Horse” author Michael Morpurgo and “His Dark Materials” writer Philip Pullman, both of whom spoke in the past about the importance of fostering a love of reading in children.

The letter closes with the authors and illustrators “offer[ing] our full support for a national campaign to change the way we assess learning so that schools nurture creativity, exploration, and a love of literature from the first day of school through high school graduation.”

Standardized tests also made negatives headlines earlier this year, when it was alleged that teachers and other staff members at an Atlanta school had given students answers and corrected responses to increase the test scores for the student body. For some observers, the charges were another indication of the intense pressure that the standardized tests place on teachers and students.