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Hello, my name is Oliver James and this is Oliver Speaks

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Follow my journey from illiterate to literacy advocate .



School Failed Me.

What's up, I struggle with reading!  I’m on a journey to fix that one word, one page, one chapter, one book at a time.

It took me a few months of posting on TikTok to get to the point where I could change my opening line. I was so happy the day that I was able to change it from “What's up, I can’t read”! to “What's up, I struggle with reading.” It was truly a moment of triumph for me because I was teaching myself, at the age of 32, to read for the first time in my life.

I knew it would be a long journey but it would be my unique journey. 

Through the amazing support of the love of my life I started this amazing adventure in learning to read and I’ve never looked back.

Featured book

365 Quotes to Live Your Life By

by Isaac Robledo

"Oliver James is a TikTok (and #BookTok) sensation, motivational speaker, and personal trainer.


In his TikTok videos, Oliver often introduces himself by saying “I’m a 34-year-old man who struggles with reading.” However, it wasn’t long ago that he would say “I can’t read.”


He opens up about many deep struggles he has gone through with learning to read and his mental health. His story has been so inspiring that he ended up being featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, the Rachael Ray Show, NPR, and other major outlets.


The way I came to learn about Oliver may surprise you — after all, it surprised me. Oliver’s partner gave him a book that I compiled, titled 365 Quotes to Live Your Life By. It was the first book he ever owned, which was the beginning of his journey of learning to read better."



Read the full article by the author, Isaac Robledo, here.

What's up! I can't read, but we're on a journey to fix that."

quotes by Oliver 

"Let's Go Read!"

"We're Reading, Growing, and Showing!"

In the

I’ve been blessed to be featured on many different platforms where I have been able to share my story. Thank you to these amazing venues for giving me a chance to share my story and inspire today's youth.

'What's up! I can't read ' O C  resident goes viral after schooling left

'What's up! I can't read ' O C resident goes viral after schooling left

It was just after dawn, and TikTok’s unlikeliest literary hero was running late. Oliver James, 34, backed his white Ford cargo van into his favorite spot at Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve in Orange County, his face aglow in the autumn sunlight as he rushed to set up his first livestream of the day. He tugged a makeshift curtain behind the driver’s seat, snapped his cellphone into a mount by the side mirror, and pulled a gently loved paperback from his knapsack.“It’s a new day, a new start, ” James told the camera, flipping to page 190 in “Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl” as hundreds of strangers logged on. “We’re going right up to the top — can’t waste no time! ”With that, he began reading aloud from the 75-year-old memoir — a book that everyone in the audience had read. James is not a mellifluous reader, though he shares the blinding smile and infectious energy of other viral creators on the popular video app. A personal trainer by trade, he has never penned a bestseller, taught English, studied library science or appraised a first edition. Yet his six-figure following puts him in a rarefied tier of “BookTok” influencers, ahead of the New York Public Library, The Last Bookstore and all the “Big Five” publishers combined.“I snuck in through the back door, ” he said of his sudden success. “I snuck in from the back and have more followers than most #BookTok people. ”Indeed, his meteoric rise among the app’s literary luminaries has proved the year’s biggest plot twist. It began with five words.“What’s up! I can’t read. ”If you’ve made it this far, you likely have little memory of how you learned to read. Partly, that’s a function of mechanics: Formal phonics instruction, which builds literacy from letters and sounds, is only newly in vogue among today’s grade-schoolers, after decades of disfavor in American education. In California, it was not taught at all from the Reagan era through the impeachment of President Clinton. Yet even children who study this “science of reading” rarely recall the painstaking synthesis of sign and sound that first alchemized tree pulp and petroleum ink into Desmond Cole of “Ghost Patrol” and Matilda Wormwood, Roald Dahl’s 5-year-old protagonist from the book of the same name. At some point, for most of us, it just happened.“People really can’t imagine what it is to exist without being able to read, ” said James’ partner, Anne Halkias, 38. “I don’t think people understand how much extra work you have to do. ”Because we can’t remember it, illiteracy can seem total, akin to the formless darkness many sighted people imagine blind people see. But for adults like James, the reality is both brighter and blurrier than that.“There was some foundational stuff there, ” Halkias said. “He knew his alphabet. He knew certain words. ”But he lacked the skill to tap out a text message or untangle the instructions in a video game. All data is taken from the source: Article Link: #people #newsuk #newsworldtoday #bbcnewsworld #usanewstoday #newsworldnow #
Oliver James - Heart & Hand Book Talk Series – LA County Library

Oliver James - Heart & Hand Book Talk Series – LA County Library

In this February 16, 2023, edition of LA County Library’s Heart & Hand Book Talk Series, watch Oliver James, one of the brightest new stars on TikTok’s BookTok platform. His story makes for one of the most uplifting in the whole literary world: he taught himself to read at the age of 34 by leveraging TikTok. Oliver is also a fitness aficionado and personal trainer who got started on his reading journey while working out, and now he’s set a “modest” goal of reading 100 books this year. We promise you will come away from this talk inspired! The Heart and Hands Book Talk Series hopes to inspire people to open their hearts and minds by challenging existing perceptions about systemic racism and injustice against people of color. Developed as part of LA County Library’s Equity Initiative, these talks feature discussions on thought-provoking literature as well as conversations with noted authors and speakers. The Heart and Hands Book Talk Series is moderated by Skye Patrick, LA County Library Director. For weekly LA County Library virtual programs and interactive events: Subscribe to LA County Library for DIY Library programs, book talks, storytime, and more! Connect with LA County Library: Twitter Facebook Instagram About LA County Library: Founded in 1912, LA County Library is one of the largest and most innovative library systems in the US. It offers free public resources including books, music, multimedia materials, computer and internet access, and educational and recreational services. LA County Library is dedicated to reducing barriers and increasing access to and equity of public services for all. To learn more, visit
Episode 124: Oliver James - Who Is Oliver James?

Episode 124: Oliver James - Who Is Oliver James?

Slipped through the cracks of special education, graduated high school with a second grade reading level, faced trauma, became incarcerated, started a personal trainer business in his native Pennsylvania, saw the pandemic bring his business to a halt, then took steps to change his life. How? By seeking treatment for his OCD diagnosis, changing his diet, re-committing to healthy nutrition, moving to California and doing something remarkable. Oliver decided to first face the fact that he could not read. He then decided to teach himself to read. He went even further and decided to document it on social media, his self guided journey to literacy. His story has become a sensation covered by Good morning America, The Los Angeles Times, and Inside Edition. He hopes to inspire others as a motivational & inspirational speaker. He shares his story, as well as his vision, with just Two Dads. Speaking Event: TikTok: Instagram: YouTube: — Instagram: Podcast: LinkedIn: Facebook: YouTube: Mens’ Group Survey: Sponsored by Billy Footwear: #OliverJames #SelfLove #BookTok #Perseverance


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James joins host Deepa Fernandes to talk about his powerful, inspiring and tough journey to reading.
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A TikTok star who was functionally illiterate finds a community on BookTok
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In-Person  & Virtual

Speaking  Engagements

Oliver’s standard speaking engagement is 60 minutes long and he works with all budgets on a sliding scale. Oliver loves to be able to provide Q&A at the end for those who would like to connect with him. 


Sample topics are as follows, with customization available:


Oliver’s Story and Personal Reading Journey

As a lively young boy, Oliver struggled with learning to read in school. After having a son in his 30’s he decided that now was the time to learn to read. He took his personal story to TikTok and reached millions of fans who have encouraged him on his literacy journey.


The Importance of Reading and Literacy

Having struggled to learn to read in school Oliver provides a powerful first-hand account on the importance of reading and literacy and how it impacts your life.


Using Reading to Overcome Difficult Circumstances

While on his journey to teach himself to reach Oliver, he realized he had OCD and dyslexia. Never one to give up, Oliver has found unique ways to use reading to help him overcome difficult circumstances in his life.


The Power of Self-Improvement –

Using Reading to Improve Personal Development, Mental Health and Mindset

Oliver has used the power of self-improvement to help improve his entire life. Oliver shares how everyone can improve their lives through books.

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College Students

“Oliver has been such an invaluable visitor for my literacy courses. He has ‘visited’ twice and is coming for a third time to discuss the book he is reading alongside my classes. The students are really enjoying hearing from someone who isn’t their teacher but still chooses to be there. Oliver has such a unique and important perspective on learning, reading, and self-growth and is able to share his thoughts in a way that truly means something to the students. He reminds them that who they’re really doing school for, is themselves, and it’s that they have to answer to. I am so grateful to have come across his videos and story and know he is helping my high school students refocus and regain perspective as they work their way toward graduation.” 

-Susie S. Bonny Eagle High School

Reading Together
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