2020 by the Numbers: Stats on Education, Access, and Reading

Amid the upheaval this year, there were bright spots: Audiobook sales surged, more kids tuned into podcasts, and children’s book sales continued to grow.

Schools and libraries across the country and the world faced daunting challenges in 2020 as buildings shut down and millions of students shifted to online learning during the pandemic. These facts and figures about schools, libraries, books, and learning help tell the story of this unprecedented year. Amid all the uncertainty and stress in 2020, there were some bright spots: Audiobook sales surged, more kids tuned into podcasts, and children’s book sales continued to grow.



The percent of all U.S. school-aged children who live in households without broadband access or a web-enabled device.

Source: National Education Association




The decrease in math scores on the NWEA MAP Growth assessments in 2020 versus 2019 taken by students in grades 3 to 8. Reading scores were similar to last year.

Source: NWEA




Amount of students who took the test last year but did not show up to take it this year.
Source: NWEA




Increase in children’s podcast listening during the first three months of 2020.

Source: Podtrac




Percentage of all kids ages six to 17 who now listen to podcasts.

Source: Ipsos




Increase in audiobook sales through May 2020 compared to the same period last year.

Source: NPD Group




Increase in the number of schools using the Sora reading app in 2020 over last year.

Sora allows kids to borrow and read their school’s eBooks and audiobooks.

Source: OverDrive Education



$1.19 billion

Sales of children’s and young adult books for the sixth-month period from January to June 2020, a 7.5% increase over the prior year period.

Source: Association of American Publishers




Percentage decrease in sales of K-12 instructional materials from January to June 2020 compared to the same period during 2019.

Source: Association of American Publishers




The number of countries that reported missing an average of 47 days of in-person instruction in school (as of 10/20) due to the pandemic.

Source: Unesco




The number of countries around the world that currently have total school closures (as of 12/6/2020).

Source: Unesco



1.3 billion

The number of school-aged children around the world who don’t have Internet access.

Source: UNICEF




Percentage of U.S. libraries that reported limited access to physical buildings during the spring.

Source: American Library Association




Percentage of the country’s largest 100 school districts that started the school year with all-remote learning.

Source: Education Week




Percentage of school librarians who said they have noticed increased emotional issues such as fear and anxiety among students this year.

Source: School Library Journal



3.7 million

Number of U.S. students expected to graduate high school in in the 2020-21 school year. Last year, the number of students who graduated was also 3.7 million students.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)



56.37 million

Number of U.S. students enrolled in elementary, middle, and high school in 2020, including private and public schools. Last year, 56.35 million students attended.

Source: NCES




Increase in sales for bread cookbooks in the U.S. year over year for the nine-month period ending Sept. 2020.

Source: NPD Group




Percentage of teenagers who said they read for pleasure at least once a week.

Source: Young Adult Library Services Association




Number of weeks Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has been on the New York Times best seller list (as of 12/13/20).

Source: The New York Times




The number of times that Ezra Jack Keats’s picture book The Snowy Day has been checked out of the New York Public Library since 1962. It is the most checked-out book in the library’s 125-year history.

Source: New York Public Library



$2.175 billion

Amount that Bertlesmann’s Penguin Random House is spending to buy Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS, assuming the deal clears antitrust hurdles.

Source: Bertlesmann



Melanie Kletter, a freelance writer and editor in New York City, was previously a senior editor of TIME for Kids.


Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing