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PACEs in Early Childhood

Why We Should Teach Empathy to Preschoolers []


In the fall of 1979, Yalda Modabber had just moved from Iran back to her birthplace in Boston. Her timing was bad: Just weeks later later, a group of armed Iranians took more than 60 U.S. citizens hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Iran. As a result, her fellow students bullied her ruthlessly.

Golestan Education's Yalda Modabber

“It was nonstop for two years,” says Modabber, who has dark curly black hair and a warm smile. “That period in my life was so hard that I blocked it out. I don’t even remember my teachers’ names. The entire class turned on me.”

Modabber is now the principal and founder of Golestan Education, a Persian-language preschool and after-school program in Berkeley, California that collaborates with other local schools on cultural education, where my son will be going to preschool next year. In a quiet voice, she tells me that being bullied drove her to integrate empathy into every level at Golestan.

Various studies show that the more empathy a child displays, the less likely they are to engage in bullying, online and in real life. Empathic children and adolescents are more likely to engage in positive social behaviors, like sharing or helping others. They’re also less likely to be antisocial and exhibit uncontrolled aggressive behaviors. That’s a big reason why educators have been devoting more attention to empathy in recent years, integrating it more deeply into schools and curricula. And as Golestan illustrates, some of these efforts are focusing on early childhood education.

[For more of this story, written by Shuka Kalantari, go to]

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