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Dame Marie Mildred Irwin Clay, DBE, FRSNZ (January 3, 1926 – December 21, 2007) was a distinguished researcher from New Zealand known for her work in global educational literacy. She was committed to the idea that children who struggle to learn to read and write can be helped with early intervention.


Life and career

She was born in Wellington, New Zealand. Her given name is pronounced MAH-ree, with the stress on the first syllable. She majored in education at University of New Zealand, earning a bachelor's degree in 1946 and a master's degree in 1948. After studying clinical child psychology at the University of Minnesota as a Fulbright scholar, Clay received her Ph.D. from the University of Auckland in 1966, where she had been on the faculty since 1960.

She developed the Reading Recovery intervention program, which was adopted by all New Zealand schools in 1983. In 1985, teachers and researchers from Ohio State University brought Reading Recovery to the United States. Reading Recovery is an early intervention for at-risk students in grade one that is designed to close gaps within an average of 12-20 weeks. The program is currently used in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, including Department of Defense Schools. To date, Reading Recovery has successfully served over 1.6 million readers in the United States alone.

In 1982, Clay was inducted into the International Reading Association's Reading Hall of Fame.

In 1987, to recognize Marie's service and successful leadership in literacy education, she was awarded the title Dame Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1992, Marie was elected president of the International Reading Association and was the first non-North American to hold this position.

Her teachers' guidebook, Reading Recovery: Guidelines for Teachers in Training, has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide. She died in Auckland, New Zealand.[1]

Ohio State University

Faculty at Ohio State first worked with Clay in the early 1980s and she served as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar there in 1984-85. The Ohio State University Board of Trustees approved the Marie Clay Endowed Chair in Reading Recovery and Early Literacy on February 4, 2005.

Selected bibliography

  • Reading: The patterning of complex behaviour. Auckland, New Zealand: Heinemann. (Other editions 1979, 1985)
  • Becoming Literate: The Construction of Inner Control (Heinemann, 1991)
  • Concepts About Print: What Have Children Learned About the Way We Print Language? (Heinemann, 2000)
  • Change Over Time in Children’s Literacy Development (Heinemann, 2001)
  • By different paths to common outcomes. York, ME: Stenhouse, 1998.
  • Reading Recovery: A guidebook for teachers in training. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1993.
  • Literacy lessons designed for individuals part one: Why? When? And How? Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2005.
  • Literacy lessons designed for individuals part two: Teaching procedures. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2005.


External links



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