Mary Johnson began her crusade against illiteracy in the 1960s. She was vocal in her advocacy of the phonetic method of teaching children to read, so when her methods ran into opposition, she began to publish her own books on the subject. She formed the reading-related publishing company, Clarity Publications. That her methods work is shown by the widespread support her work eventually received.
While her initial work was with school children, she came to realize that her methods could be used to teach English as a second language to newly-arrived Canadians. In this direction, Johnson not only inspired a knowledge of English, but instilled a compassion in the new arrivals of their adopted country.
Johnson was a fixture at the International Centre, where she greeted each new arrival with the goal of making them feel they were a welcome addition to the community.
For her part, Johnson also recognized the importance of the International Centre and left as a donation the copyright to her 14 workbooks.
Her Foundations for Literacy workbook goes far beyond being solely an aid, as she understood the intricacies of spelling and simplified it to become readily comprehensible to the average person.