Light Up Literacy

Light Up Literacy is a resource-rich program created to help bring to life the value of tikkun olam in congregations, havurot and schools during Hanukkah.

It’s hard to imagine not being able to read books or newspapers. It’s like living one’s life in the dark. In rural Guatemala about 50% of the population lives in this kind of darkness.

During a time of year that is often overshadowed by the larger cultural messages of material consumption and entitlement, Light Up Literacy enables our children and families to experience the joy of being a shamash — a source of light in the lives of others.

Light Up Literacy invites parents to create a special seventh night celebration in which they give tzedakah to Reading Village in lieu of gifts, share a special blessing over the candles, and take part in guided learning and discussions using the materials on this web page. (See below.) This year we can create “Hanukkah miracles” by putting brand new books in the eager hands of children in Guatemala.

Candles are an important element in Maya religious tradition. A lit white candle signifies the light of life. For children in the Reading Village program, literacy is the light of life. It brings them out of the oppression of poverty. During Hanukkah we too will light candles in celebration of freedom from oppression, and through tzedakah will help transform the lives of Guatemalan children by giving them the gift of literacy.

All You Need to Light Up Literacy at Your Synagogue or School

Religious Schools: Sunday or Day Schools

Help your teachers, students and their families bring to life the value of tikkun olam this Hanukkah. Children give up one gift on the seventh night and donate the money so that children in Guatemala may have books. Donors receive a hand-woven blue and white friendship bracelet from Guatemala and a certificate acknowledging their gift. Included are lesson plans for teachers, a video and posters for classrooms, a Hanukkah Celebration Guide for the seventh night, and all you need to run the program.

Youth Group/Brotherhood/Sisterhood/Social Action Committee Project

Host a table at your temple’s pre-Hanukkah book/craft fair and gather your community in support of the right of children everywhere to experience the power of literacy. Ask for donations from individuals to be made to Reading Village in the name of friends and loved ones as a Hanukkah gift. You will give donors a certificate to present to the friend or loved in whose name the donation has been made along with a copy of the Hanukkah Celebration Guide so they can participate in Light Up Literacy this year.

Family or Havurah

Bring the value of tikkun olam to your family’s home Hanukkah celebration this year. In lieu of giving gifts on the seventh night of Hanukkah put books in the hands of a Guatemalan child who has never owned one and celebrate with your family the power, freedom and joy that reading brings to your lives.

FAQ Sheet on Reading Village, Guatemala, and Light Up Literacy

Bar or Bat Mitzvah Project   

Raise funds to support a teen in Guatemala who is dedicated to bringing books and a love of reading to the children in their mostly illiterate village. $5 will pay for a book to add to a reading promoter’s satchel so any amount you can raise is helpful. If you can raise $1,800 (enough to put one teen reading promoter through our program for one year) we will send you a thank you letter from one of our teens (translated into English) that you can read at your Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony.

Let us know how your Light Up Literacy experience went!


Many thanks to Stephen S Wise Temple and Schools in Los Angeles for developing and piloting this program and to Hallie Rosen of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, IL for her creative additions.