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May Hill graduated from high school in Chicago, Illinois in 1912 but was unable to attend college until nine years later due to financial difficulties. Instead, she received a primary supervisor certificate from the University of Chicago in 1913 and began her career as an educator working as a kindergarten teacher. She became the principal of a kindergarten primary training school in Cleveland, Ohio, that by her efforts became the department of elementary education at Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve). She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago in 1922, and did graduate work at Columbia University. After directing the move to Western Reserve, Arbuthnot became an associate professor at the University. The school became key to the teaching and training of professionals and parents alike in the development of children and children's literacy. She continued in this role until her retirement in 1950. She married Charles Crisswell Arbuthnot, an economist, in 1932. Prof. Arbuthnot also contributed to children’s literacy as an influential reviewer of children’s books for the periodicals Children’s Education (1933-1943) and Elementary English (1948-1950). She also published her own books, including the textbook Children and Books (1947), which was used in children’s literature classes for many decades. In 1947, Prof. Arbuthnot and William S. Gray, a friend from the University of Chicago, developed and co-authored the first of the now-famous Dick and Jane series for early readers used by several generations of schoolchildren. Two of her well-known anthologies include Time for Poetry (1951), and Arbuthnot Anthology of Children’s Literature (1953), both of which continued into multiple editions.
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