Following the trend of the past couple of decades, UNESCO expected a further drop in the number of children in the world below the minimum proficiency level in reading for 2020. In 2019 this figure came to 483 million, and was forecast to sink down to 460 million last year. However, with large proportions of the world's children unable to attend school (at least in person) due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of children with reading difficulties actually rose by more than 20 percent to 584 million.
Adding context, UNESCO writes: "Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, complete or partial closures have disrupted schooling for an average of 25 weeks, with the highest learning losses projected to be in the Latin America and Caribbean region, and in Central and Southern Asia. " The negative effects are expected to be quite long-lasting too: "While one year into Covid finds that a return to the pre-pandemic pathway may take a decade...recovery could occur by 2024 if exceptional efforts are made to provide remedial classes and catch-up strategies".