It's really not as difficult as you might think. However, people make it difficult because they want to start at the top.
Understand that when it comes to the study of an instrument, there are really two levels of intelligence required:
Intellectual - this is where you can read something and understand what it means
The second level of intelligence is:
Muscle intelligence - Just knowing about something doesn't necessarily mean you can do it. Muscles train through endless repetitions. At first it takes a tremendous amount of CONSCIOUS effort before one can do things UNCONSIOUSLY.
Think of it as lifting weights. If you were new and relatively undeveloped, you would not want to start training with 100 lbs.
And yet, people think just because they can read and comprehend the written page, they should be able to PLAY!
A further example would be if you were going to learn a new language, preferrably one where the Alpha-numeric characters were totally different than your native language (eg Enlish/ Chinese)
You would first have to start with their basic characters, and gradually work your way up to short words and sentences.
Heck, we don't even have to go Foreign languages. Just look at how a young child learns to read English. Alphabet is followed by short words (remember those Dick, Jane and Spot stories?), followed by short sentences, and eventually up to paragraphs and pages!
No matter what grade level you are at, you still have to know at least these three things:
1) What is the name of the note?
2) What fingering should I use?
3) Where is it located on the keys?
Here is a 5-Step Process that, if applied diligently, will have you reading independently in no time.
START WITH SOMETHING SUPER-EASY because you are going to be developing Eye-Ear-Hand coordination.
1) Read the Notes and Finger Numbers OUT LOUD while you play
2) Read only the Notes OUT LOUD as you play
3) Read only the Finger Numbers OUT LOUD as you play
4) Count OUT LOUD as you play
5) BE QUIET... THINK as you play
This 5-Step Process gives you method of THINKING. By doing all five steps, you are getting in the necessary repetitions that will reinforce the eye-ear-hand coordination.
Again, start super-simple and don't be in any hurry to rush to harder pieces. Soon, you will begin to experience AUTOMATIC RECOGNITION and things will just snowball from there.
Take your time. Learning is a LIFE-LONG Skill.
You know, even if there was a different notation system, there is FAR MORE MUSIC written in the current format. If playing a wide variety of music is one of your goals, it would be well worth your effort to learn to read standard notation.
All the best from Toronto,