Marie Clay

Founder of global literacy programme Reading Recovery

Reading Recovery, Marie Clay's one-to-one tutoring programme for children falling behind in reading after one year of school, was described by American psychologist Robert Slavin in 2011 as "by far the most widely researched and used tutoring programme in the world".

In New Zealand, one in every six 6-year-olds took Reading Recovery for half an hour a day for up to 20 weeks in 2016. The programme has spread to most English-speaking nations including Australia, the United States, Canada, Britain and Ireland.

Clay developed the programme at Auckland University, where she became the university's first female professor in 1975. She was made a dame in 1987.


Her research grew out of her 1948 master's thesis on teaching reading to special class children. Born in Wellington, she taught in Whanganui before moving to Auckland in 1955 to join the Education Department's newly established Psychological Service.

For her 1966 doctorate, she followed 100 children through their first year at school, developing tools for measuring reading progress and later the intervention programme designed to bring low-achieving children up to the class average. Reading Recovery was rolled out nationally in 1983.

Reading Recovery teachers lift children's literacy achievement through individually designed and individually delivered daily lessons. By reading and writing meaningful text in every lesson children learn to approach reading and writing with a problem-solving approach that allows them to draw on many different sources of information when they encounter problems.