Let’s Read Brings Children’s E-Books to the Maldives

Program Year: 2020

By Johann Rebert, Anton Nallathamby, and Radhika Abeynaike

Located in the Indian Ocean, to the southwest of Sri Lanka and India, the Maldives is an archipelago that is well known for its beautiful beaches, oceans, and resorts. With a population of less than half a million, the Maldives is the smallest country in Asia and one of the most geographically dispersed. 

Connected by a network of ferries, the 200 inhabited islands in the Maldives are spread out over 35,000 square miles, making it an ideal place to promote the use of online reading. (Photo: Joel Jeyanathan / The Asia Foundation)

Although the Maldives has several dialects, Dhivehi, the national language, is spoken throughout the country. As a popular tourist destination, the Maldives attracts many visitors from across the globe, and English has also become a popular medium of communication at resorts and other attractions. 

Once considered a minority language, English today is one of the most widely spoken languages in the country. The introduction of English as the primary language in schools played a key role in promoting its use. Currently, all classes in Maldivian schools are taught in English except for Dhivehi-language classes. Immersed in English from a young age, students are mastering the language quickly. While English has become dominant in official places and schools, however, Dhivehi is still used in many Maldivian homes, and elderly people in particular use Dhivehi in their daily lives. 

For three decades, The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia has provided English-language books and journals to educational and research institutions, community and government libraries, and students at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. With the declining use of Dhivehi, particularly among the younger generation, and the lack of Dhivehi-language reading materials, protecting and preserving the Maldives’ linguistic heritage has come to be seen as a matter of national importance, and the Foundation has received many requests from partners in the Maldives to provide more children’s books in Dhivehi. 

The first Let’s Read Translation Event underway at the Maldives National University

In February 2020, Books for Asia introduced the Let’s Read program to the Maldives with the initial aim of translating 60 children’s books into Dhivehi. The first “Let’s Read Dhivehi” translation event, a partnership with the National University of Maldives, the National Institute of Education, and the Dhivehi Academy, was attended by the first lady of the Maldives; the education minister; the minister for arts, culture, and heritage; and a number of state ministers and education leaders. The program has now advanced from donating printed materials to providing free, online access to original children’s books on the Let’s Read platform. These books can be accessed through the Let’s Read website or app. 

For the next phase of the program, The Asia Foundation, in partnership with the National University of Maldives, will bring together translators and editors to provide high-quality Dhivehi translations of English-language books. The program will also bring together Maldivian authors and illustrators to develop original Dhivehi content, with the aim of publishing original children’s books in Dhivehi in the future. 

Related locations: Sri Lanka
Related programs: Books for Asia
Related topics: Let's Read, Maldives

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