Functionally illiterate man becomes viral star by learning to read on TikTok

One Good Thing: TikTok Star Shines Light on Literacy

An illiterate man has become an internet sensation for using TikTok to share his impressive reading progress.

Last year, Oliver James (@oliverspeaks1) started his journey with a candid video saying: "What’s up! I can’t read."

Now, he boasts almost 130,000 TikTok followers and uses the platform to share his newfound love for reading.

James, a personal trainer and aspiring motivational speaker, recalled one of his followers asking why he couldn't read. He said he didn't really know how to respond.

"To be honest, I didn't really think deep into it – until now, when I put the video out," he said in the October 2022 video.

He went on to share his harrowing experience at school, saying he was "abused."

"When I was in elementary school, I was in special education," James said.

He added: "They used to be able to put their hands on us... It was really hard for me to think about school, reading – anything to do with school. I was going to school thinking 'what's going on?'"

James then admitted to focusing more on how he could get expelled so he could get kicked out of the school but suggested that they were all as bad as each other.

Sign up for our free Indy100 weekly newsletter


Part 1 of the story of why I can’t read. #icantread #learningtoread

In one of his viral videos, he vouches to read 100 books in 2023 and to share the reviews online.

In a recent appearance on Good Morning America, Jamesexplained:"I usually ... push play and just do a couple of my lives or a couple of my videos and that's pretty much it."

"I just went out and read one word. One word turned into two, two words turned into three. That turned into a page," James added.

His vulnerable posts have garnered almost a million likes – and has even drawn attention from Barnes & Noble, who have recently gifted even more books for James' collection.

Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings.

Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)