It’s frustrating when you know that your child isn’t achieving grade level expectations, but you don’t know how to help him. I don’t know exactly where your son is at in terms of reading and expectations in his classroom because the expectations will vary depending on where you are. I do know that children are expected to enter kindergarten with a certain level of knowledge upon which the teachers can then build. If your child entered school struggling with or without this knowledge base, then it may be that he’s having some difficulty getting caught up. Reading builds upon a skill base. If your son struggled with the initial skill base (ie. knowledge of the alphabet/sounds), it’s going to be hard for him to build further on those skills if they weren’t properly mastered. This may also be just a case of “readiness” and it could be that your son is still a little young so the concepts that are being taught aren’t necessarily being absorbed as quickly as they need to be. Either way, it sounds like he’s struggling and could use some help.
Have you discussed your concerns with his teacher or was it the teacher who brought it to your attention? Either way, make sure to get the teacher involved and see what suggestions he/she may have for improving your son’s reading. Ideally, no matter what you do, you want to do it on a daily basis so that there’s constant reinforcement of the skills. If the teacher gives you some worksheets to do at home, try and do a little each night rather than sitting for several hours at a time. A little each day will go farther than a lot at once.
Make sure that he knows the alphabet. Does he know all of his letters and the sounds that they make? Have him sing the alphabet to you. Can he get through the entire alphabet without prompting or error? Place a letter alphabet strip in front of him and see if he can tell you what letter goes with the sound you’re making and then what sound each letter makes. If he’s successful with this, try some other things. Does he know the vowel sounds and the way that vowel sounds change if combined with another vowel? Can he figure out what two letters make blends and digraphs if you say the sound and can he tell you the answer when you say the sound? I’m guessing that he can’t since he’s struggling with reading, but this gives you an idea of the direction you need to take.
Choose a letter a week and make the week all about that letter. Have your son write the letter or trace it if needed. Let him use a glue bag (a Ziploc bag filled with white glue and food coloring of his choice then sealed) or fine sandpaper to trace and feel the letter. Give him some plasticine and have him make the letter shape of the week. Put that letter someplace he sees every single day such as the bathroom, his nightstand or the kitchen table centerpiece. Do the same thing with the sample letters he’s written so that he is seeing it all the time. Each time you hear or see that letter at the beginning of a word, draw his attention to it. Have a colored page on the fridge where you record all the words you’ve found that week and perhaps challenge him to find some of his own. You’d be surprised how much more aware of the alphabet and each letter he becomes if you do something like this. It’s going to take some time and effort on your part, but will be worth of it. There’s a great series called “Explode the Code” which can also help you and your son navigate through building his reading abilities step by step.
Some children grasp reading right away with little to no help while others will require extensive assistance. Just be patient and enjoy your time with him. Lastly, if you find that you’re overwhelmed at all that this entails or you find yourself struggling along the way, you can always consider getting a tutor to help him until he’s over this bump in the road.
Some more tips I'd suggest:
Talk to your child's teacher to find out particular reading challenges for your son. Take him to the library and let him check out his favorite books. Read together every night. Practice reading while doing everyday activities, such as reading cereal boxes together at the grocery store, or reading signs on the way to the store.
Well, for what it's worth, I'd say the most important thing is that he learn the alphabet and then the sounds of the letters. The next thing is that when reading to him, you sit side-by-side so that you can now and then point to a letter, a syllable, a word. Let him see that the language moves left to right, and only left to right.