Music to read by

Music to read by

Singer Barbara Morrison headlines Saturday fundraiser for local literacy program

By Carl Kozlowski 09/04/2013

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Theodore Johnson did not learn how to read until he was 50. But once he gained that knowledge, he shared it with others, starting a literacy program in Altadena that over the past seven years has helped more than 400 children improve their literacy skills.

On Saturday, Johnson will be celebrating that success and raising money for his efforts by hosting the 2nd Annual TBI Literacy Louisiana Juke Joint Fundraiser from 3 to 9 p.m. at his home in Altadena.

The show will feature a powerhouse lineup of musicians headed by popular singer Barbara Morrison, along with Sonny Green, “Texas Songbird” Sherry Pruitt, and the Joe Kincaid Band, all there to help TBI’s efforts to assist people who need attention in writing development, spelling and vocabulary usage.
Dinner will be available at the event as well, included in VIP ticket prices and at an additional charge for those who purchase general admission tickets.

“I didn’t learn to read until I was 50 years old so I understand the importance of young people learning to read,” explains Johnson, 59, who says that TBI stands for Teddy Bear Inc. “I was hurt at work in 2005 and taken off the job, so I decided to give back to the community by working with people who need to learn.”

Johnson works with a team of volunteers who mostly come to him from two sources: Senior citizens referred by the Pasadena unemployment office and work-study students from Pasadena City College. They operate out of two Pasadena locations — the Victory Full Gospel Baptist Church at 1497 N. Hill Ave. and the administration office of Robinson Park at 1081 N. Fair Oaks Avenue.

The program’s group of students, who start at the first-grade level, currently includes one 70-year-old man. TBI keeps its participant numbers low enough to give its students one-on-one tutoring and assistance.  

“Every year this time of year we go to PUSD and get them to approve a flier for us and we take it to all the different schools,” says Johnson, who moved to Altadena from Chicago in 1974. “Most of the time, the kids are at the park anyway, and we get the parents to understand we’re there to help. It’s a word-of-mouth thing. We try to understand the schools are overcrowded and instructors don’t have time for individuals, so we give them what it is they need, which is special attention.”  

The 2nd Annual TBI Literacy Louisiana Juke Joint Fundraiser Concert takes place from 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday at TBI Garden, located at 2202 Santa Anita Ave., Altadena. Tickets are $35 for general admission and $50 for VIP tickets. Call (626) 791-5303 or visit


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