Marie Clay Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Clay

Dame Marie Clay

Marie Clay 1974.jpg
Clay in 1974
Marie Mildred Irwin

(1926-01-03)3 January 1926
Wellington, New Zealand
Died13 April 2007(2007-04-13) (aged 81)
Auckland, New Zealand
OccupationEducationist, researcher

Dame Marie (pronounced MAH-ree)[1] Mildred Clay DBE FRSNZ (née Irwin; 3 January 1926 – 13 April 2007) was a researcher from New Zealand known for her work in educational literacy. She was committed to the idea that children who struggle to learn to read and write can be helped with early intervention. A clinical psychologist, she developed the Reading Recovery intervention programme in New Zealand and expanded it worldwide.

Early life and education[edit]

Marie Mildred Irwin was born in Wellington, New Zealand, the daughter of accountant Donald Leolin Irwin and music teacher Mildred Blanche Godlier. Her parents separated when she was five. She attended four primary schools, then Wellington East Girls’ College.[2] She studied education at Victoria University College, graduating BA in 1947 and MA with second-class honours in 1949.[3] Her masters thesis was entitled The teaching of reading in New Zealand special classes.[4] She also received a Diploma of Education from the same institution in 1948.[3] After studying clinical child psychology at the University of Minnesota as a Fulbright scholar, Clay received her PhD from the University of Auckland in 1966, after completing her doctoral thesis entitled Emergent reading behaviour.[2][5] She was employed on the faculty of the University of Auckland from 1960.[2]


Clay developed the Reading Recovery intervention programme, 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 programme is currently used in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.[citation needed] To date, Reading Recovery has played a role in the development of over 1.6 million readers in the United States.[6] Its use in Australia and New Zealand has reduced significantly over recent years because of a report from the New South Wales Department of Education[7] concluded that Reading Recovery was largely ineffective, and should not be used for most children.[8]

In 1982, Clay was inducted into the International Reading Association's Reading Hall of Fame. In the 1987 New Year Honours, she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for services to education.[9] In 1992, she was elected president of the International Reading Association and was the first non-North American to hold this position.[10][11]

Her teachers' guidebook, Reading Recovery: Guidelines for Teachers in Training, has sold more than eight million copies worldwide. She died in Auckland, New Zealand at the age of 81 following a brief illness.[6]


Faculty at Ohio State 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 4 February 2005.[12] In 2017 Clay was selected as one of the Royal Society Te Apārangi's "150 women in 150 words", celebrating the contribution of women to knowledge in New Zealand.[13]

Personal life[edit]

In 1951, she married civil engineer Warwick Victor Clay, with whom she had a son, Alan, and a daughter, Jenny.[14] They were divorced in 1976.[15][2]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Reading: The patterning of complex behaviour. Auckland, New Zealand: Heinemann. (Other editions 1979, 1985)
  • Quadruplets and Higher Multiple Births (Mac Keith Press, 1989)
  • 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.


  1. ^ Fox, Margalit (20 April 2007). "Marie M. Clay, Remedial Reading Specialist, Dies at 81". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c d May, Helen (2018). "Clay, Marie Mildred". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 19 March 2020.
  3. ^ a b "NZ university graduates 1870–1961: I–K". Shadows of Time. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  4. ^ Irwin, Marie Mildred (1 January 1948), The teaching of reading in New Zealand special classes, Open Access Repository Victoria University of Wellington, doi:10.26686/WGTN.17061380, Wikidata Q111991172
  5. ^ Clay, Marie M (1966), Emergent reading behaviour, [email protected], hdl:2292/778, Wikidata Q111963787
  6. ^ a b Fox, Margalit (20 April 2007). "Marie M. Clay, Remedial Reading Specialist, Dies at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 September 2008.
  7. ^ Bradford, Deborah; Wan, Wai-Yin (2015). Reading Recovery: A Sector-Wide Analysis (Report). Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, Department of Education, New South Wales, Australia.
  8. ^ Smith, Alexandra (20 December 2015). "Reading Recovery program used in 960 NSW public schools does not work". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  9. ^ "No. 50766". The London Gazette (3rd supplement). 31 December 1986. p. 33.
  10. ^ "Past Presidents | International Literacy Association". www.literacyworldwide.org. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  11. ^ Gaffney, Janet S.; Askew, Billie (1999). "Marie Clay: Researcher, author, and champion of young readers". Reading Recovery Council of North America. Retrieved 28 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "Marie Clay Chair to Aid Literacy Research". readingrecovery.osu.edu. Retrieved 28 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "Marie Clay". Royal Society Te Apārangi. Retrieved 28 April 2021.
  14. ^ The International Who's Who of Women, ed. Elizabeth Sleeman, Europa Publications, 2002, p. 107
  15. ^ Fox, Margalit (20 April 2007). "Marie M. Clay, Remedial Reading Specialist, Dies at 81". The New York Times.