Kate Messner's novel "Chirp" is set on a cricket farm. Messner said she visited cricket farms in Vermont and Texas for research.

“Chirp” by Kate Messner is a story about friendship, the joys of summer — and how to make yourself heard if an adult acts in a way that makes you uncomfortable. 

One of Maine's many rocky beaches.
Max Pixels Contributors / Creative Commons

Skimming — or skipping — stones (poetically called "jumping frogs" in Africa; "waddling ducks" in Hungary or "bouncing fish" in Norway) has a long and glorious history among the under-12 set who seem to know almost by instinct the sheer joy that comes from watching a smooth stone jump across flat water until it sinks like, well, a stone.

"Survivor Tree," a new book from Marcie Colleen and Aaron Becker, tells a story of the 9/11 attacks through the lens of a tree planted at ground zero.

"Survivor Tree" is a children's book written by Marcie Colleen and illustrator Aaron Becker of Amherst, Massachusetts. It tells the story of a growing pear tree found beneath the ruins of the Twin Towers. Today, the tree thrives and is planted at the 9/11 Memorial in New York. 

Massachusetts Board Agrees To Early Education Mask Policy

Sep 1, 2021
A child wears a protective face mask.
Nenad Stojkovic / Creative Commons /

Teachers, staff and many students at Massachusetts day care centers and after-school programs will be required to wear masks indoors after Labor Day.

Backed By New CDC Report, Lamont Stands Firm On School Mask Mandate

Aug 31, 2021

A week after being accosted at a school by anti-mask protesters, Gov. Ned Lamont made an uneventful visit Monday to an elementary school in a district where the school superintendent says masks are not an issue.

“I would say Newington is off to a fantastic start. We have 100% cooperation with masks,” said Maureen Brummett, the superintendent. “And now we’re working on the immunization protocols, which I fully support.”

Superintendent Daniel Warwick, at right, in front of a class of students at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy in Springfield, Massachusetts, on August 30, 2021.
Alden Bourne / NEPM

As school starts this week in Springfield, Massachusetts, the district said it's sending permission slips home with middle and high school students so they can receive the COVID-19 vaccine on-site.

Worcester Public Schools welcomed back students Monday after what has been a long year and a half for parents of school children.

From remote learning and mask mandates, to a return to classrooms with some public safety precautions, the uncertainty of the pandemic weighed heavily on some families as the new school year began.

For Worcester parent Brandy Mehlhouse, the choices and challenges facing students and their guardians were at times overwhelming.

Ace Mejia, one of the influencers trying to help Worcester, Massachusetts, boost vaccination rates among the city's youth.
Michael Bonner / The Republican /

The city of Worcester is launching a program to use social influencers to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among the city's youth.

Massachusetts School Mask Mandate Now In Effect

Aug 26, 2021
A student in a kindergarten class raises her hand at Barbieri Elementary School in Framingham, Massachusetts, in spring 2021.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

Students and staff at Massachusetts public schools are now required to wear masks indoors, under a policy Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley officially put forward Wednesday.

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets Tuesday with education commissioner Jeffrey Riley.
Screen shot / State of Massachusetts

Updated Aug. 24, 2021

The Massachusetts education commissioner has been granted authority from a state board to mandate masks in public schools. 

Higher Ed Racial Equity Plan To Launch In Massachusetts With Campus Surveys

Aug 23, 2021
Holyoke Community College.
Holyoke Community College / Creative Commons

Massachusetts higher education officials are working to develop a 10-year strategic plan setting racial equity goals and objectives, with a survey of students, faculty and staff across public colleges and universities coming this fall as an early step in the process.

Gov. Lamont Continues COVID-19 Mask Mandate In Schools

Aug 18, 2021

With infections increasing, Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday he will continue a requirement that K-12 students wear masks in school to combat the spread of COVID-19 to a population that includes many children still ineligible for vaccinations.

“At this point, I don’t see that changing,” Lamont said at a morning event in New Haven. Hours later, he made it official, saying he wants no “ambiguity.”

On the shores of Lake Lashaway in central Massachusetts this summer, you’re likely to find kids frolicking in the sun, making pottery, fishing or talking to friends.

It sounds like it could be any summer camp. But this is the Camp Atwater, founded 100 years ago as one of the first — if not the first — summer camps in America specifically for Black kids.

The camp was created at a time when other summer camps were closed to Black children. But many campers and organizers say Atwater is still needed today, a century later.

Rumbila Abdullahi and her husband Ibrahim Abdi hold their newborn son, Nabeel, outside their home in the Sixteen Acres neighborhood of Springfield, Massachusetts.
Ben James / NEPM

In early May, Smith College senior Rumbila Abdullahi relaxed on a couch in her living room off a quiet street in the Sixteen Acres neighborhood of Springfield, Massachusetts. She wore a baati — a traditional Somali dress — and a hijab.

Mass. Gov. Baker Says No Plans To Change Mask Guidance For Schools

Jul 22, 2021
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
Sam Doran / State House News Service

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday his administration has no plans to reinstate a mask mandate for schools this fall, one day after a dozen lawmakers urged him to revive the policy in early education and elementary school settings amid the spread of the more infectious Delta variant of COVID-19.

The office of the bishop of the Springfield Catholic Diocese.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

The Springfield Catholic Diocese has suspended its relationship with a youth group after a complaint of inappropriate behavior.

Survey Measures Pandemic Impacts On Young Parents

Jul 14, 2021
An infant with a toy.
gerlos / Creative Commons /

Massachusetts youth were twice as likely as adults to lose employment during the COVID-19 pandemic, while young parents in particular faced a "confluence of pressures" more severe than other age groups, according to new state survey data.

A child receives a vaccine.
James Gathany and Judy Schmidt / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Massachusetts lawmakers held a hearing Monday on a number of bills focused on vaccines. One would eliminate the religious exemption for childhood vaccinations to attend school. 

Local Republican lawmakers say juvenile crime is so bad in Connecticut that the general public is in danger, and they’re calling for a special session targeting repeat offenders.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree a problem exists, but they are split on how to solve it.

Baker Continues Push for Big Housing Investments

Jul 7, 2021
Massachsuetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
Chris Van Buskirk / State House News Service

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker visited the Boys and Girls Club of Springfield on Wednesday to celebrate the growth of a program that provides night and weekend activities for youth during the summer, but the Republican also pitched spending federal stimulus on homeownership in cities like Springfield.

How COVID Isolation, Loss And Racism Deepened Crises For Children Of Color

Jun 25, 2021

The pandemic is waning, but the mental health crisis for children isn’t. And for many children of color, the full impact of the last 15 months — against a backdrop of longstanding systemic racism and inequities — may just be coming into focus.

Mahailya Effee, a 15-year-old who lives in Roxbury, says from the early days of the pandemic, she struggled to stay engaged with full-time remote school. She started to not care about her grades.

Philip Morris International -- one of the largest tobacco companies in the world -- is moving its U.S. headquarters to Connecticut from New York. The business says it will site its head office at a yet-to-be-chosen location in Fairfield County, bringing 200 jobs to the state. The relocation is slated to be complete by summer of 2022.

Skyleigh D’Ambrosia, 17, loves learning about science. She’s taken pretty much every science class available at her high school in the western Massachusetts town of Athol.

“I want to be a doctor when I’m older,” she said. “So those are just kind of important classes.”

The biographical exhibit, "The Story of Eric Carle," at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Kevin Gutting / Daily Hampshire Gazette /

Illustrator and author Eric Carle is being remembered for his many children’s books, including “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” — and the museum of picture book art he founded with his wife.

Children as young as 12 can start receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine in Massachusetts on Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday, pending an expected final go ahead from federal regulators.

The state plans to use a variety of strategies to reach 12 to 15 year olds, including pediatricians, regional vaccination clinics and pharmacies.

A classroom.
Wokandapix / Creative Commons

A Massachusetts lawmaker hopes to follow to lead of Connecticut and Maine, and eliminate the religious exemption for childhood vaccine requirements in schools.

Dara Kennedy and Maya Shwayder examine the foster care system and the challenges foster families have faced during the pandemic. Psychology professor Jen Matos of Mt. Holyoke College talks about family stabilization. Next, a conversation with William McClendon who grew up in the Connecticut foster care system and just recently, became a foster parent. He spends his time working with at-risk youth.

Officials across the country closed many outdoor basketball courts due to COVID-19 concerns.
Guettarda / Creative Commons

Springfield, Massachusetts, officials continue to field suggestions on reopening many of the city's basketball courts. They were closed at the beginning of the pandemic last year to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Families who oppose Connecticut’s new law eliminating the state’s religious exemption to childhood vaccines will take their fight to court, announcing their plans just hours after the governor signed the bill into law. 

Massachusetts Sets May 17 Deadline For Full, In-Person High School

Apr 27, 2021
An empty classroom.
Violet Jiang / Creative Commons /

The Massachusetts education commissioner has decided to require all school districts that haven't already done so to provide high school students with full-time, in-person learning by May 17.