When teaching to read traditional music notation, I separate the 2 parts of pitch and rhythm. Rhythm is easy to teach using stick notation.
[update-12-3-12] Stick notation is taking traditional notes and removing the note-head. The note-head is the round dot at the bottom of the stick. The dot is placed on the 5 lines of the staff and depending on where it is, tells us which pitch to play. By removing the note-head, we focus only on the rhythm.
The use of hand movements, words and sounds enable us to get the music in our body, mind, eye and ear. Multiple modes of experience!
This method is created by Michiko Yurko and you can find her and her books/games/workshops at MusicMindGames.com.
Here’s a little video I made with the help of Ava.