Hindi Ki Duniya, by Chandrika Mathur, is a set of five textbooks for classes 1 to 5, accompanied by a workbook as well as an audio CD for each class level.

Although Hindi is considered an elegant and easy-to-learn language, this is so only for Hindi-speaking people. In regions where Hindi is not spoken, teaching this language has been a truly daunting task. This task has now been made interesting, effortless and easy by Chandrika Mathur, who presents a new and attractive approach to teaching the language in the form of textbooks for children.

In the past our textbooks used to be quite lifeless. Can we not recall the times when we would be asked to listen to a lesson being read aloud, and found ourselves nodding off? If we were asked to read the lesson out loud, this would be done haltingly and slowly, with minimal interest, until the teacher would finally ask us to stop and herself continue with what she considered a model reading. The text of the lesson would, at best, have had one or two illustrations; and there was hardly any colour to brighten the pages. How then could we be expected to read the lesson with interest? But we can also recall the several Hindi magazines available for children—Parag, Bal Bharati, Chandamama, and Nandan. These we would read with keen interest, for the contents were quite engaging: stories, poems, plays, conversations, information about lands far and near, jokes, riddles and comics. How we wished that our textbooks too could be like them: they would have been so much more fun!

Now, on seeing these beautifully produced new textbooks by Chandrika Mathur, one feels elated, wishing that one was a child once again. For, these books are replete with just those kinds of materials that appeal to a child. They are highly interactive, activity-based and put together in an engaging yet scientific manner. Apart from being firmly grounded in child psychology, the Hindi Ki Duniya series has also been designed as a practical methodology, keeping in mind the specific needs of children who are from the non- Hindi-speaking States.

For instance, in the textbooks for beginners, the Hindi alphabet has been conveniently broken into clusters, introducing a few letters and matras at a time. Short four-line poems for each letter, often related to a child’s daily life, introduce the child to the sound-script correspondence, as well as a set of nouns. Each page is supported by large illustrations, so that the meanings become clear, and children learn a range of vocabulary along with its usage. The basic requirement of imbibing knowledge of the complete varnamala (alphabet), including features such as half letters, is achieved without any confusion for non-Hindi-speaking children.

Each of the textbooks in this series has an accompanying CD which enables the child to hear the poems, songs, lessons, or conversations, and learn correct pronunciation. In addition, each textbook also has a workbook to go with it, in which children can write in Hindi, practising and consolidating each and every detail of their learning. The textbooks and workbooks include several activities—games, riddles and puzzles—which serve to motivate children while also expanding their grasp of vocabulary, idiomatic expressions and grammatical elements. Children’s creativity is given ample room for expression. Even the textbooks contain slots for children to express themselves. Instructions for the varied activities are given in English, so that children studying Hindi in an Englishmedium environment will have no difficulty in following them.

The lessons in the textbooks for each successive class introduce new themes, along with increasingly wider sets of new vocabulary. Objects, places, people and creatures as well as verbs are all introduced through pictures and flash-cards. Another unique feature of this series is the inclusion of a number of dialogues and conversations connected to daily life. The basic patterns of grammatical structures are woven into the progression of the lessons, and made clear through examples and illustrations. So the students gain a simultaneous understanding of applied grammar-in-usage; a separate grammar book is not needed. A section at the back, ‘Some useful information’, provides answers, removes misconceptions and explains the logic behind the finer details of Hindi; it also helps to recognize and reinforce the patterns behind them. This should prove very useful for both students and teachers.

In the fifth textbook of the series, composed of texts of different genres, from different sources, the selection is based on a modern approach that takes into account children’s interests. New authors of contemporary stories are included alongside traditional tales. A novel feature is the set of word labels provided alongside illustrations accompanying the text, so that meanings of several nouns along with their gender are conveyed in an interesting manner. Instructions are given on each page for engaging in specific ways with the texts and illustrations. This should be helpful for teachers as well as students.

A variety of exercises support the development of logical and analytical abilities. The cover design using children’s drawings, full-colour illustrations, and the innovative layout of the books, all these go into making this outstanding publication. Overall, we can affirm that this series belongs to the rare category of ‘ideal textbooks’, in which a variety of creatively designed visual-auditory as well as spokenwritten activities support the development of all the language-learning skills: reading, comprehension, speaking, writing, as well as thinking and creating in Hindi.

Credit for this work goes not only to the publishers, Orient Blackswan Ltd, but also to Rishi Valley Education Centre, which enabled this concrete form to be given to the author’s long years of experience in researching and teaching the language.

One can say with confidence that these books will be a source of joy for children. No matter which country or State they belong to, they will be able to befriend the Hindi language happily. A series such as the Hindi Ki Duniya is to be welcomed in the world of education.