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How TikTok Star Oliver James Went from Prison to Inspiring Adults to Read
March 07, 2023
Jennifer Hudson is inspired by a man who has the courage to put himself out there to show people the joy of reading.
Oliver James has recently gone viral on his mission to learn to read. At 34 years old, Oliver is functionally illiterate, but he’s determined to change that and is sharing his journey with hundreds of thousands of fans on TikTok.
Oliver has been filming himself for the last year and a half as he reads page by page — usually in the front seat of his van or while exercising.
According to Oliver on TikTok, the first book he decided to read was “The Diary of Anne Frank,” followed by the coming-of-age classic “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton.
His literacy goal has made him the star of the “BookTok” community, and he now has a following of over 133,000 and nearly 1 million likes! People from all over the world tune in to his videos, where he not only does planks and push-ups but also opens up about his personal struggles.
“I had to go back to where all of these things started to go wrong for me,” he told Jennifer on "The Jennifer Hudson Show." “I seen that I didn’t have the reading skills to be able to maneuver around the world in an honest way.
“It’s embarrassing,” Oliver admitted. “I’m an adult, and my son, who is 10 years old, reads better than me.”
Oliver found himself wondering, “How is my son gonna be able to move forward further than I have if I haven’t given him those directions?”
“I didn’t know that my fears were going to be my success,” he said of his newfound fame. “Once I realized I can approach something that’s uncomfortable with love, compassion, diving into it with no map, just doing it, that’s the thing that showed me that there’s some kind of relief I was causing myself to act the way I did in the world.”
He’s inspired countless thousands of strangers all over the globe, but Oliver more so hopes that his son is paying attention. “I’m showing him, ‘Hey, this is uncomfortable... and I’m gonna do it with a smile on my face, so that he knows how to maneuver around the world.”
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JHud, moved by Oliver’s perseverance and bravery, surprised him with a basket of books that he can enjoy reading with his son.
“You are amazing,” said JHud to Oliver. “Keep being brilliant!”
Follow Oliver’s literacy journey by visiting his TikTok @oliverspeaks1.