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What about just working on phonemic awareness rather than phonics? Learning rhymes and playing games with sound would help lay a foundation for reading later -- once his overall understanding of English is more advanced.

For example, playing a game where you separate the sounds of a simple word that he understands such as "cat" by saying making the sounds /c/ /a/ /t/ and letting him blend them into "cat." This is a purely oral game -- just sounds, not written letters.

There is a book called "Phonemic Awareness and Young Children" that has tons of ideas. It is sort of "prephonics." These are skills that most kids who grow up in a language rich environment acquire naturally, but that some kids need specific help with. (One of my DDs had speech and language delays and these kinds of things did not come naturally to her, I can see how an ESL kid might have the same issues.)

After that, she used "Reading Reflex" (which was a great fit for her) and eventually ETC. From what I've read, if a child starts reading instruction before their grasp of English language is solid, they are more likely to have reading problems, but if they wait until they are older to start reading instruction and their language skills are better, they quickly catch up with their age mates. This wasn't in a homeschooling book, but on a book on hearing problems and children (I can't remember the name of the book).
 
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