Literature plays a crucial role as both a mirror and a window to the worlds in which children live and are expected to take their place” (Galda, 1998). This quote unfailingly reminds us of the power of stories and books and the role they play in enriching children’s lives. Literature introduces children to not just stories but also ideas and issues related to their own lives as well as to lives and worlds they haven’t as yet seen! It makes available to them the collective knowledge about how individuals and communities have understood themselves and their relationships with each other and with nature. Through it, children also understand the elements of stories like plot, characters, theme, setting, values and language use.

While the role literature plays in children’s lives is well established and even acknowledged, creation of and access to good quality literature, especially in local languages that children speak and understand foremost, is disproportionately low. In India, 45% of the literature published for children is in English, 25% is in Hindi and a mere 30% is in the hundreds of local Indian languages! Additionally, only 26% of the overall literature published, is for children aged 0-6 years making it the most neglected group by publishers. (Parag, A Tata Trusts Initiative). This dearth of reading material in local languages, holds back 40% of students globally from gaining education in a language they understand. Lack of linguistic diversity in children’s books is a serious concern at present.

Determined to do something about this dismal state of children’s literature in local and under served languages of India, we at Aripana Foundation embarked upon Project Lemon-choos, a project dedicated to creating quality literature for children in Maithili – mother language of thousands of children of Mithila, foremost on many a child’s tongue yet struggling against other social and politically dominant languages.

Maithili is recognized as one of the official languages of India as per the 8th Schedule to the Indian Constitution. Despite this monumental step, in the state of Bihar, in which the Mithila region is located and a large number of Maithili speakers reside, Maithili does not enjoy the status of an official language. It is absent in children’s schooling and educational experience, the repercussions of which are serious! Younger generations, deprived of an academic, creative, enriching engagement with the language, coupled with very little exposure to literature and educational material therein, remain only remotely aware of the history and linguistic uniqueness of Maithili and the treasure trove of literature created by literary greats! Maithili literature too, like any other, offers its children a window and a mirror both, with which children can know the world around them and themselves, better, in a language that is their mother language, the one they speak and understand before any other! No other language,no matter how widely prevalent and influential, can replace the experience Maithili can provide to Maithil children. Presently, there’s very little opportunity or space created for young, budding minds to learn, understand, experience the language, in turn nurturing pride in young minds towards the language and culture.

At the present rate, without thoughtful intervention, younger generations might completely lose touch with the language. Not very many individuals will know it enough to become creators of literature in Maithili and not many will learn to be readers either!

This context and challenges there in, helped set goals for Project Lemon-choos. Right from the start, the project proposed to address more than just the dearth of good quality books in Maithili for early readers and young children. An equally important goal of this project was to encourage community participation and enhance community awareness. Additionally, Project Lemon-choos was designed to undertake translations of some of the choicest works in children’s literature from across the world, into Maithili!

The project was launched in August 2018. Through word of mouth and with help from social media, team Aripana sent out a call to interested volunteers from the Maithil community to join this mission of creating quality literature for children in Maithili! The response was heartening, with Maithili speaking individuals from across India, and not just Mithila, joining the group of volunteers, and thus began the journey of creating children's literature in Maithili! Our partnership with Pratham Books' Storyweaver gave it the much needed impetus!

Launched by the renowned NGO Pratham Books, Storyweaver is a one of its kind, digital, open-license platform that is a storehouse of close to 33,000 stories in about 280 Indian languages - Tamil, Marathi, Kannada, Bengali, Assamese, Odiya,Telugu, Gondi, Konkani and many many more! When team Aripana started work in the area of children's literature in 2018, Storyweaver had roughly 20,000 stories in 220 languages except MaithilI Not a single story existed on this beautiful, resourceful, contemporary, open source platform that was becoming the ideal place for parents, educators, writers, translators and illustrators to come together to weave new stories for children and help to create a pathway to nurture the next generation of readers

The team of volunteers at Aripana, chose some of the popular, beautifully illustrated and delightfully crafted children's books from the Pratham Books' Storyweaver platform to translate into Maithili! By December 2019, team Aripana had created 26 English-Maithili (bilingual) and Maithili books on the Storyweaver platform, 10 among which were printed and made available to children through multiple channels - through Aripana's one of its kind online store of Maithili books for children, literature festivals like the Madhubani Literature Festival, World Book Fair, other cultural events such as Vidyapati Mahotsav organised by Karanataka Mithila Sanskritik Parishad, Bangalore and Milanotsav organised by Mithilawasis @ Bengaluru. Attendance at these festivals and cultural events served more than one goal! It not only helped create awareness about this community driven project, encouraging other interested individuals to join this mission but also got us valuable feedback from people who started reading the books, helping us on this journey!

As cited earlier, Project Lemon-choos aimed to create books in Maithili for children, through community participation. The project also wished to create community awareness about the importance of this endeavor and of utilizing the power of the digital medium to create open source content in Maithili.

We take this opportunity to introduce the stellar team that helped in the realization of this dream! Aripana Foundation approached and was fortunate to be guided by acclaimed Maithili authors, who not only reviewed the created books but also regularly engaged with the team of volunteers.

<!-- --> Pradip Bihari

Pradip Bihari

Maithili Translation Expert, Project Lemon-Choos
Location: Madhubani, Bihar. A theatre aficionado, actively involved in acting, writing and directing plays, Pradip ji is a writer, proficient in Maithili, Hindi and Nepali with several published works to his credit, original and translated. He is the recipient of the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award, 2007 for his collection of short stories, ‘Sarokar’.
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<!-- --> Colonel P M Jha (Retd.)

Colonel P M Jha (Retd.)

Managing Trustee

Colonel Jha completed his medical training from Ranchi Medical College and joined the Indian Army in 1984. During his tenure he served across multiple locations in the country, including the North East and the Western border region; as well as in the Middle-East. Through his career, he also continued to provide voluntary medical services to unreached communities of North Bihar.

After 31 years of distinguished service in the Armed Forces, his passion for and understanding of public health in rural India, especially Bihar, led him to co-found Aripana Foundation, where he presently serves as the Managing Trustee and the Director of its Public Health vertical.

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<!-- --> Kumar Vikramditya

Kumar Vikramditya

Translator, Project Lemon-Choos

Location: Saharsa, Bihar

Kumar Vikramaditya is an assistant teacher, at Sri Nav Kumar High School Lagma, Sonbarsa, Saharsa.  He graduated with a B.Sc Honors in Zoology and went on to pursue an M.Sc in Geography, M.Sc Zoology, a B.Ed, M.Ed from Jamia Milia Islamia, Delhi and additionally cleared the UGC’s N.E.T. (National Eligibility Test) in 2013.  He has been teaching for over a decade and is guest faculty at the college of teacher education, Saharsa, Bihar.

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<!-- --> Bhaskar Jha

Bhaskar Jha

Translator, Project Lemon-Choos

Bhaskar is volunteer, Project Lemon-Choos. He has translated A day at the park, My little garden, Colours of nature and Sona’s smart nose (English Level 1 to 3 books), into Maithili.

Bhaskar graduated from NIIT, Jamshedpur and presently works in the IT sector. He enjoys playing music on the synthesiser.

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<!-- --> Swati Suman

Swati Suman

Translator, Project Lemon-Choos

Swati is volunteer, Project Lemon-Choos. She has translated Grandma’s glasses, an English Level 2 book, in Maithili.

Swati graduated from IIBS, Bangalore with an MBA in HR and presently serves as Human Resources Administrator at Quantela, Inc. Swati enjoys singing and participating in activities like cycling, trekking and running.

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<!-- --> Ashutosh Jha

Ashutosh Jha

Translator, Project Lemon-Choos

Ashutosh Jha is volunteer, Project Lemon-Choos. He has translated Ammu’s Puppy, The Ant and the Green Mung Bean, The Grand Patch-up, My Best Friend and Gulli’s Box of Things, English Level 1, 2 and 3 books into Maithili.

He graduated from the Cambridge Institute of Technology, Ranchi with a B.Tech in Computer Science and currently works in the IT sector.

Ashutosh enjoys singing and has several live singing performances and recordings to his credit. He is skilled at bringing together like minded people and executing various activities and projects like storytelling for children, cycling in the city, trekking etc.



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<!-- --> Pratyush Anand

Pratyush Anand

Translator, Project Lemon-Choos

Pratyush is volunteer, Project Lemon-Choos. He has translated My Balwadi, Pishi and I, Samira’s awful lunch, The red raincoat, Going to a wedding
(English Level 1 to 3 books) in Maithili.

Pratyush graduated from IIT, Delhi with a Masters in Computer Technology and presently works as Linux Runtime Lead for AI Accelerator at Qualcomm.

Pratyush likes to cycle, run and trek. He is passionate about literature, especially Maithili literature.

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<!-- --> Reena Mishra

Reena Mishra

Translator, Project Lemon-Choos

Reena Mishra is volunteer, Project Lemon-Choos. She has translated Rumniya, What does Anu see, Bath time for Chunnu Munnu, I want that one! (English Level 1 to 3 books) into Maithili.

Reena graduated from IIIT Kolkata and works in the IT sector.

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<!-- --> Gaurav Thakur

Gaurav Thakur

Translator, Project Lemon-Choos

Gaurav is volunteer, Project Lemon-Choos. He has translated Today I am!, Didi’s colourful treasure, I can help, Going home (English Level 1 to 3 books), into Maithili.

Gaurav graduated from East Point College of Engineering and Technology and is currently with Oracle Financial Services Software. Gaurav is closely involved in activities of Babujeeka Library, a one of its kind library of Maithili literature and community centre in Darbhanga.

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<!-- --> Vikas Vineet Jha

Vikas Vineet Jha

Voice Over Artist, Project Lemon Choos

Vikas Vineet Jha is volunteer, Project Lemon-Choos. He has lent his voice to the audio version of Project Lemon Choos books, thus, bringing them alive in a different way.

Vikas is administrator at Sri Sri Academy, Kolkata. His passion lies in theatre and he is part of several theatrical productions. He enjoys singing, storytelling and working with children. Vikas is also involved in activities of several NGOs working in Bihar.

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Maithili Books for Children

Developing Open Source
Maithili Input Tool

Languages are important for preserving the Cultural Identity of peoples and communities. When a language disappears, traditional knowledge and cultural heritage are also lost along with it. Aripana collaborated with Pratham Storyweaver and AI4Bharat, on a project supported by Google’s AI for Social Good to develop an Open-source Input Tool, specifically for Maithili.