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

More than 100 authors and illustrators signed a letter to the president stating that testing has a 'negative impact. .. on children's love of reading.'

David Goldman/AP
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.

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. 

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. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Authors, illustrators to Obama: standardized tests turn kids off to reading
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today