Maurya's first story book was a delightful one called 'Lama Lama Red Pajama' in which Mama Lama reads Baby Lama a story and then goes downstairs, leaving him in the dark. The rhyming bedtime tale has some great lines, like this one:
"Baby Lama, what a tizzy, sometimes Mama's very busy! Please stop all this lama drama and be patient for your Mama!"
Thanks to the fabulous English children's literature available - with its exquisite illustrations, charming stories and a sense of humor that appeals to us hapless parents who have to read them ad nauseum, Maurya is now addicted to books! Julia Donaldson's 'Rosie's Hat' and 'Room on the Broom' are the current super-hits!
But you'd think living in India also means he's absorbing Hindi like a sponge and serenading us with classic Hindi songs like 'Chanda Mama.'
Some of you multi-lingual parents will already have figured this out, but it makes no bloody difference what country you bring your child up in. If they don't consistently interact with a language - all day everyday - they will not speak it. It doesn't matter what language you speak with your spouse. The trick, apparently, is for each parent to stick to ONE language with the child. I'm now using Hindi exclusively with Maurya, and it is making a big difference. He's still choosing to answer back in English, given that his ability to express himself in English is racing ahead. But I am beginning to notice an increased willingness to use Hindi words as well as a definite increase in his understanding of Hindi conversation.
Still, the biggest problem I face as the sole parent charged with imparting Hindi, is the competition from English-language games, songs, television, movies... and books. It's pretty tough to beat Toy Story or Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed! (Although I discovered that our Toy Story DVD has a Hindi language option! 'To infinity and beyond' becomes 'Anant se bhi agay!')
Hindi children's literature is, sadly, limited. The few suitable books produced are difficult to find. Most bookstores here stock only religious tomes rendered too graphically for children. The illustrations are mass-produced, the printing abysmal, the stories convoluted or preachy... I have found no toddler board books... or well-illustrated stories, with fun characters or plots. And Hindi is not the only victim. Overall, there seem to be too few books in any language offered by mainstream retailers.
Here in India, the exceptions are Tulika Books and the Children's Book Trust. Check out Tulika's bilingual books, (pictured above) which have both English and Hindi (or English and Tamil, Gujarati, etc) on the same page within the same book, which is super useful! The Children's Book Trust is more hit and miss, but if you're in Delhi and can browse their collection in person, you'll find a handful of useful toddler's books.
Watch this space too, as I'm in the process of creating what I hope will be a collection of Hindi/English toddler e-books with original stories and illustrations that you can download from the likes of Amazon! I've also made a playlist on YouTube of lovely old Indian children's songs... and am planning to start a Hindi playgroup so Maurya sees his peers engaging in his mother tongue.
The most important thing you can possibly do if you're a Hindi speaker is to use the language with your child every single day!
Apart from that, here are a few other resources to help you along:
Mantra Lingua in the US and UK does bilingual books in a whopping 52 languages, including Tamil, Bengali, Farsi, Hindi, Nepali, Punjabi, Urdu, Malyalam, Sylheti and Gujarati!! Their website is a bit fiddly, but they are very much in business, as I just spoke to them on the phone number listed on their site.
The European Bookshop in London does Dari, Pashto, Urdu, Thai and Bengali.... though sadly no Hindi...Still worth mentioning though.
Apart from books, my absolute favorite resource is the Indian version of Sesame Street, called Galli Galli Sim Sim, where Cookie Monster is 'Biscuit Badshah'... Bert is 'Bharat' and Grover has a thait Punjabi accent!!! Priceless!! Enjoy.