How to Sort Books

The goal of our sorting system is to deliver the right books to the students.

Setup for Third Graders at Pleasant Hill Elementary May 2017

Sorting is a very important way we prepare for our Summer Book Distributions program. We have the right books lined up to reset the tables for the grade that is coming in. It also helps us be sure we have sufficient books of the right type and reading level to offer the students.

Two Sorting Dimensions:

Reading Level – We are delivering books to the students that are age / reading level appropriate. This improves the usefulness of the books because it makes the books more accessible to the students.  A child frustrated trying to read a book far beyond their reading level will give up. At the same time, we want the child to stretch and add to their skills by offering a book with new words and some added complexity. The core goal of sorting for reading level is to provide a book choice “in the ballpark” of the student’s abilities – it is not an exact science.

Type of Book – During Summer Book Distribution, we set up tables by type of book and ask the students choice several from each table. We want each student to receive an allocation of a range of books including fun to read fiction books, books that entice them to read with knowledge (non-fiction), Spanish or Dual language (both Spanish & English words) books for the English Language Learners and coloring / activity books to encourage their creative talents.

Sorting Categories:

Book Categories:

1.    Fiction (fun-to-read)
2.    Non-Fiction (knowledge books: science, history, culture, etc.)
3.    Spanish / Dual Language
4.    Coloring & Activity Books

Definitions of reading skills (End of School Year):

•    Pre-Kindergarten – only one or two words per page (three maximum), simple & short words of typically one syllable, clear & consistent text placement on the page, larger font letters, pictures in primary colors, simple theme (or very simple story), most Pre-K books are board books.
•    Kindergarten – several words per page (average words per page of four), simple words with no more than two syllables, simple text placement on the page, larger letters of at least medium font, normally a simple story or theme, kindergarten books can be both paper and board books.
•    First Grade – a couple sentences per page, less complex words with one, two or at most three syllables, clear text placement of sentences on the page (easy to find and follow), medium font letters, a story or theme, most First Grade books are paper pages (a board book is still acceptable).
•    Second Grade – a paragraph per page, text placement should be clear but can more be varied, a mix of words both simple and moderately complex (3-4 syllables), letter font can be smaller but still much larger than an adult level text, a moderately complex story, books with paper pages only.
•    Third Grade – simple chapter books with several paragraphs per page and frequent illustrations, standard book text placement, a more complex word selection, the letter font is smaller but still larger than adult level text, a moderately complex story or subject, modest book length.
•    Fourth Grade – Full chapter books with fewer illustrations and more text, standard book text placement, complex word selection, letter font is standard book text size, a complex story or subject.
•    Fifth Grade – Fourth and Fifth Grade books are fairly similar. A book with a more a complex subject or longer length is sorted to the Fifth Graders.

•    No religious themed books are allowed in the schools.
•    No board books beyond First Grade

Full List of Sort Targets (Boxes):

Pre-K Grade Level
1.    English Books (fiction & non-fiction are sorted together)
2.    Spanish & Dual Language Books
3.    Coloring Books (very few words, simple pictures)

Kindergarten Grade Level
1.    English Fiction Books
2.    English Non-Fiction Books
3.    Spanish & Dual Language Books
4.    Coloring Books (some words, less detailed pictures, very simple activities)

First Grade Level
1.    English Fiction Books
2.    English Non-Fiction Books
3.    Spanish & Dual Language Books
4.    Coloring Books (sentence or two, more detailed pictures, simple activities)

Second Grade Level
1.    English Fiction Books
2.    English Non-Fiction Books
3.    Spanish & Dual Language Books
4.    Coloring & Activity Books (a sentence to a paragraph, detailed pictures, moderate activities)

Spanish language books above Second Grade reading level are group together and provided to the schools for direct placement to students needing them.

Coloring and Activity Books above Second Grade level (picture & activity complexity, reading level, etc.) are group together and offered to the Third to Fifth Grade students.

Third Grade Level
1.    English Fiction Books
2.    English Non-Fiction Books

Fourth Grade Level
1.    English Fiction Books
2.    English Non-Fiction Books

Fifth Grade Level
1.    English Fiction Books
2.    English Non-Fiction Books

Special Categories (by-catch):

•    Del Valle Correctional Center – Softcover books unsuitable for the students due to subject or reading level. No hardcover books are allowed in the facility. One of our volunteers is a reading mentor at DVCC and can walk them into the librarian. They have very large need for books.
•    Religious Theme Books – We have several organizations that can use religious themed children’s books … just not the schools.
•    Adult Reading Level Books (hardcover) – Softcover books are offered to Del Valle Correctional Center. Hardback books are set aside for teachers and others to enjoy.
•    Teacher’s Aides – These are school focused workbooks for students and other classroom learning aids. We offer these to the teachers for their use in classrooms.
•    Miscellaneous – Items that are not books but can be useful. Some items can be used in the schools as behavior prizes.
•    Recycle – Books that are damaged and unusable.

The Sorting System

Sorting books at Pleasant Hill

It is a complex process to sort the unsorted donated books into the most productive use ready to be finished with cleaning and tagging. The way we simplify this process is a “Sorting System” which is a specific arrangement of the boxes. We use the same arrangement of boxes each time because you learn where a specific book needs to go.

First, we setup two long tables in a line. Next, we use the top of the tables for English language books with the Fiction in the front of the table and Non-Fiction behind the Fiction boxes. The boxes are ordered from left to right with the earliest grades starting with Pre-K on the left the higher grades on the right ending in 5th Grade.  For example, the English First Grade Fiction box is in front of the English First Grade Non-Fiction box. Under the table with setup another row of boxes for the Spanish / Dual Language book boxes with the same order of Pre-K to Grade 3+ from left to right. The coloring and Activity Book boxes are setup in a similar fashion behind the Spanish / Dual Language book boxes A third table has the boxes for the Special Categories.

The “Sorting System” works best with two people working on different sides of the tables. If a third person is available, a second work station can be setup for the Spanish / Dual Language books and Coloring & Activity books. Since only a small minority of the books donated are in these categories, the main two sorters can pass any of the content over to this third person to sort without losing any output on the main English Fiction and Non-Fiction books.