Maya Angelou, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author, was one of 120 writers and illustrators who called on President Obama to cut back on the deluge of standardized testing promoted by his administration.

The 120 authors and illustrators issued the following statement to the President:

We the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators write to express our concern for our readers, their parents and teachers. 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. Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers based on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration.

We call on you to support authentic performance assessments, not simply computerized versions of multiple-choice exams. We also urge you to reverse the narrowing of curriculum that has resulted from a fixation on high-stakes testing.

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. As Michael Morpurgo, author of the Tony Award Winner War Horse, put it, “It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children.”

Teachers, parents and students agree with British author Philip Pullman who said, “We are creating a generation that hates reading and feels nothing but hostility for literature.” Students spend time on test practice instead of perusing books. Too many schools devote their library budgets to test-prep materials, depriving students of access to real literature. Without this access, children also lack exposure to our country’s rich cultural range.

This year has seen a growing national wave of protest against testing overuse and abuse. As the authors and illustrators of books for children, we feel a special responsibility to advocate for change. We offer 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.

In addition, Maya Angelou specifically condemned the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program. She said “it is ‘a contest’ that doesn’t help children learn to love to read and get a better understanding of the world.

“She states, “Race To The Top feels to be more like a contest… not what did you learn, but how much can you memorize.” “Writers are really interested in forming young men and women,” she said. “… ‘This is your world.’ ‘ This is your country.’ ‘ This is your time.’ And so I don’t think you can get that by racing to the top.”