BookTok’s Newest Influencer, Oliver James, Is Learning to Read

Allison Hunt - Author

Feb. 9 2023, Published 9:07 p.m. ET

We here at Distractify are avid #booktokers. BookTok TikTok has truly brought us some of our favorite books that we read last year (Colleen Hoover, anyone?), and the amount of saved books we have is a little out of control. Too many books, too little time as the saying goes... Is that a saying or did we just make it up? Either way, we deeply feel this.

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However, what we weren't expecting from BookTok was to be inspired by one man's journey. That man being Oliver James. His journey being learning how to read as an adult.

Coincidentally, Oliver was also not expecting TikTok to come with him on that journey.

Oliver James has been inspiring the people of TikTok with his reading content.

Oliver James, a personal trainer living in the Los Angeles area, was very used to posting motivational and workout content on TikTok, but one day he decided to be vulnerable and tell us that he can't read.

In a video to explain why he posts up on the side of the road with a sign, Oliver starts with, "What's up? I can't read..." and then continues to explain that he can't really navigate the internet because of this, but he knows how to work out and make a sign.

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After the initial, "I can't read" video, people were immediately drawn to his story, so Oliver started posting videos of his journey. The TikToks tend to take place in Oliver's white cargo van, and Oliver takes the opportunity to read aloud with TikTok holding him accountable.

With more traction that the videos started to get, Oliver eventually explained why he never learned how to read. Oliver opens up telling us that he was abused as a kid. Oliver describes being in special ed in school and was only concerned about getting in trouble.

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His story made its way to the LA Times, where Oliver further went into details about how the teachers used to restrain him. This abuse manifested itself into a life on the streets in his teens, and then eventually incarceration for trafficking guns. Oliver told Inside Edition that, at the time, he had no idea he could go to jail for this, and that he didn't even know what he went to jail for because he couldn't read his paperwork.

With his newfound TikTok audience, Oliver started to go live on TikTok, reading The Diary of Anne Frank and The Outsiders out loud with thousands tuning in to cheer him on.

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Oliver continues to post videos of him reading, as well as motivational content, which makes a lot of sense since he's both a personal trainer and has aspirations to be a motivational speaker. Oliver even has a webinar coming up titled 'Heart & Hand: Destigmatizing Illiteracy with Social Media,' in partnership with the L.A. County Library.

Oliver has a goal to read 100 books this year which, considering he was hardly able to read a year ago, is already an incredible feat already.

Thank you for all the inspiration, Oliver. You are the definition of it's never too early to start. Keep reading!

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