Stories for young people do not fall out of the sky: each line, each action and each character is there for a reason. And school reading books are a good tool for transmitting values: connecting with other experiences through narrative aids the reader to enrich his or her capacity for reasoning and critical thinking. Researcher Garbiñe Salaberria analysed how moral and narrative aspects of children's and adolescents' literature interact, for which she studied a corpus of compulsory readers from both Primary school level (second and third cycles) as well as Secondary. Her thesis, defended at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), is entitled, The narrative construction of ethics. Social contexts and values in child and adolescent literature.
Ms Salaberria understands that ethical construction forms part of relating a story, and that is made up of values and actions morally orientated (such as the way in which characters choose their values, the images of the world reflected or the ethical aspirations present in the literary discourse). The research has been useful to get to know and to explain this ethical construction more deeply.
Lack of concordance
According to the thesis, the ethical-emotional verisimilitude is limited in narrative, because reality manifests itself in a simplified manner. In many of the literary works studied there exists a lack of concordance between the sentiments narrated and the depth of sentiments really involved in the ethical scenes put forward. This is why Ms Salaberria states that ethical imagination is not up to the level of literary imagination.
Also, to embody this ethical imagination, narrative space is characterised by the following: images of the world, values and moral problems. Likewise, as in the make-up of all ethical things, there are three essential parameters that intervene: certain predominant thematic indicators for each educational stage (it should be emphasised that narrative aimed at Primary level pupils places the characters at the core of the problem, while Secondary students' literature shows deeper, more general and more diffuse ethics); social contexts of learning to which they are assigned; and recurring experiences of the characters, related to areas of specific significance.
Learnt, shared, lived
As the thesis bears out, in narrative contexts recourse is made to moral simplification and to polarisation in order to represent what is correct and what is incorrect. The values are learnt, shared and lived; this is the story line. With this premise, the aim is to integrate individual interests with cooperation, demonstrating positive and/or promising outcomes. Also, each context of interaction articulates priorities as regards values; the goal is to teach in a practical manner what the values are that legitimate the behaviour of the social actors as well as what is expected of them.
The conflicts of the characters with respect to the areas dealing with identity and family relationships are the principal vehicle for the construction of the discourse on moral problems. These conflicts induce the gradual passing from childhood to the adult world. As regards the relationship of the characters with norms and rules, the different ethical registers (motives, intentionality, consequences) involved in the evaluation of actions are transmitted.
Through the readings analysed by Ms Salaberria, the reader can immerse himself or herself in ethical learning from different perspectives, such as the evaluation of the significance of values in themselves or the ethical code adopted by one character or another. It should be pointed out, however, that the impact that perception and ethical education have on the reader is not always the same, varying, as it does, according to the social contexts in which interaction is taking place.
About the author
Ms Garbiñe Salaberria Areitio (Bilbao, 1956) is a graduate in Business and Cultural Organisational Management from the Instituto Complutense de Ciencias Musicales, Complutense University (Madrid) and doctor in Sociology and Political Sciences (UPV/EHU). She drew up her thesis under the direction of Benjamín Tejerina Montaña, Professor of the Department of Sociology II at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Communications of the UPV/EHU. The thesis was undertaken here and at the Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez. Ms Salaberria is currently working as a writer, teacher and specialist in encouraging reading and training mediators.