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The Kindness Experiment

We tried to give them joy, but they gave more to us.

Miranda Starr, principal and teacher at Parkersburg Academy in West Virginia, wanted to do an experiment with her first- and second-grade students.

“In Bible class we were studying about kindness, and how it is contagious,” she says. “We wanted to see if it really works.”

Then Miranda had an idea—why not go to Eagle Pointe, a local nursing home, where the students could practice their reading skills and make friends with the residents? “This was something I had always wanted to do,” she admits. “We like to sing, but [I wondered] what else could we do for them, to make relationships?” Then another idea struck—the students could practice their reading skills by reading aloud to the Eagle Pointe residents.

Miranda shared her idea with her class, and all of the children were excited and motivated to read. By January the students were reading well enough to read on their own.

Happy to Share

“We go to Eagle Pointe every other Friday,” explains 8-year-old Ben. “We sing to the whole group, and we read to our partners.”

“It wasn’t hard to pick our partners,” chimes in Reagan, 7. “We saw them, looked at their faces, and then chose one because we liked them!”

The students also get to choose the book or books that they want to read to their partner, and they are welcome to exchange books with other students if they finish their own.

As the students read, they are also developing friendships. “My partner’s name is Miss Jane,” says Sophia, 6. “I was reading about animal tracks, and I read about a red fox. She told me that she once had a red fox as a pet!”

The residents clearly enjoy the visits, as do the young readers. “I like seeing my partner smile,” Ben said.

The students in grades 3 to 8 also participate in the ministry at Eagle Pointe. “I really like going there,” says Ryleigh, 9. “There’s one man I read to—Mark. He’s always happy to see me, and says, ‘God loves you.’ I really like him and wish we could go more often.”

In appreciation of the students’ visits, Eagle Pointe held a banquet in their honor, and presented Miranda Starr with an award plaque: “Junior Volunteers of the Year—Parkersburg Academy. You’ve warmed the hearts of many by the caring that you show. Volunteers are Shining Stars.”

Reflecting on their “kindness experiment,” Miranda and the students know it was a success. “Kindness did come back. We tried to give them joy, but they gave more to us.”