Associate Professor
Research Interests
  • Educational inequities and racial literacies
  • Early, elementary grade, and emergent bilingual children’s disciplinary literacy
  • Preservice and inservice teacher professional development
  • Multimodal literacies
Research Summary

Dr. O’Brien’s research examines ways to reduce the opportunity gaps underlying educational inequities and fostering teachers’ racial literacy (i.e., how teachers make sense of race in teaching) to support social justice. She leverages her research to help teachers support greater equity through teacher education coursework and school-based professional development. She frequently presents at research and practitioner conferences. Finally, her work is published in research and practitioner outlets.

  • Ed.D., Literacy and Language Education, Boston University
  • M.Ed., Reading, University of New Hampshire
  • B.A., Elementary Education and Psychology, Rowan University


Areas of Expertise
  • Literacy Teaching Methods
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods
Recent Publications

O’Brien, L.M., Ford-Connors, E., Gatling, A., Boyle*, E., Kopelas*, K., & Lagenfeld*, M. (2023). Who is doing science? Using science text to open space for diverse voices in elementary classrooms, The Reading Teacher.

O’Brien, L.M., Paratore, J.R., Salinas, A., & Blodgett, S. (2023), Using Connected Teaching and Learning to Deepen Children’s Interdisciplinary Learning, Journal of Early Childhood Research.

Seltzer**, M. C. & O’Brien, L.M. (2022). Fostering racial literacy in early childhood contexts. Early Childhood Education Journal.

O’Brien, L.M., Carocca*, F. A., Enos*, B., Leighton, C.M., Caffey*, E. (2021). Empowering teachers to reimagine instruction that builds students’ literacies. MRA Primer. Available at:

Leighton, C. M. & O’Brien, L. M. (2017). Advancing English learners’ disciplinary knowledge and academic language using complex expository text. New England Reading Association Journal, 52(1), 7-19.

Paratore, J. R., O’Brien, L. M., Jiménez L., Salinas, A., & Ly, C. (2016). Engaging preservice teachers in integrated study and use of educational media and technology in teaching of reading. Teaching and Teacher Education, 59, 247-260.

*Merrimack graduate student; **Merrimack undergraduate student

Book Chapters
Giunco, K., Leighton, C.M., & O’Brien, L.M. (2024). Designing literacy instruction to support reading identity negotiations: The case of one fifth-grade classroom. In C. Wagner, K. Frankel, C. Leighton (Eds.) Becoming Readers and Writers: Literate Identities Across Childhood and Adolescence.

Britain, L. Crawford, J. B., Schapiro, S., Paratore, J. R., Salinas, A., O’Brien, L., & Blodget, S. D. (2019). Building learning pathways and community for early childhood educators. In S. Pasnik (Ed.). Getting ready to learn: Creating effective educational children’s media, pp. 45-61. New York: Routledge.

Salinas, A. O’Brien, L., & Fromenta, A. (2019). Extending opportunities for learning with and through online games. Learning, Education & Games, Book 3. In Schrier, K. (Ed.). Learning, education & games vol. 3: 100 games to use in the classroom and beyond. Pittsburgh, PA: ETC Press.

Paratore, J. R., Edwards, P. A., & O’Brien, L. M. (2018). Building strong home, school, and community partnerships through culturally relevant teaching. In L. M. Morrow & L. B. Gambrell (Eds.) Best practices in literacy instruction, 6th edition, pp. 408-428. New York: Guildford Press.

O’Brien, L. M., Salinas, A., Reinhart, K. & Paratore. J. R., (2018). Preservice Teachers’ Use of Technology and Multimodal Text Sets in Teaching Reading: Lessons Learned from a Design-Based Study. In E. Ortlieb, E. H. Cheek, & P. Semingson (Eds.) Best Practices in Teaching Digital Literacies, pp. 123-136. United Kingdom: Emerald Publishing.

Honors and Awards
  • Campbell Research Fellow, Merrimack College 2023
  • School of Education Graduate Research and Scholarship Award, Boston University (GRASA)
  • American Educational Research Association Travel Award, Boston University 2012
  • American Educational Research Association Graduate Seminar and Scholarship Award, AERA 2011
  • Steven Stahl Award, International Reading Association 2011
  • Women’s Guild Award, Boston University 2011