One of the most frustrating things about early piano method books is the dependence on finger numbers to locate notes. (For the non-piano-geeks, this is where, instead of a student looking at sheet music, seeing which line or space a note is on, and correlating that to a piano key, is simply seeing a number written above the note which correlates to one of the 10 fingers, 1-5 for each hand, and playing that finger.) Almost all of the students who have come to me from other teachers have had issues reading music- I think that this is why. I use Faber and Faber, which is a great deal better than some, and which tries to take students on little mini-trips out of the static hand positions, but I'm still not satisfied. Even in Faber, the letter names for the complete lines and spaces are not introduced until the second book. (Level 1) Thus, students get through the first 2-6 months only knowing the notes in C position, if that, and being completely dependent on finger numbers to locate notes. Presumably the reasoning is that the reading will come with time, (that's just supposition) but I think it's better to avoid those bad habits in the first place. Students get so, so locked into the hand positions if they are fingering-dependent, and that's a hard habit to break, irrespective of the actual reading issues. Then, of course, you have the physical/technique issues that come from rigid hand placement...... Until I find a method series I'm completely satisfied with, (hint hint, publishers!!) my m.o. is:
It is so, so important for us as piano teachers to refuse to let our students get by with shoddy reading skills. If they miss this skill early, it's much harder to gain, with the relearning they'll have to do. I think that learning to "speak" (read, sing, play, etc) the language of music is much more important than finishing songs quickly, or doing new songs every week. Students have a tendency to evaluate their progress based on number of songs passed- this can be rather unfortunate, because sometimes we have to go back and learn skills that they missed as a beginner or put advancing in general competency above advancing with a specific piece. I try to show them the value in basic skills (of course we are also always working on some sort of music that they can reasonably pass in a week- going for weeks without any shift in repertoire would be hard for the young ones) and point out all the ways that actually knowing your stuff really does make it much easier down the road. To me, continuing to pass pieces a student can't read is like taking lessons in a foreign language and, instead of learning vocabulary, grammar, etc , just memorizing poems in that language. I say- why memorize a specific equation when you could memorize the formula?