In the front of our house we used to have some overgrown boxwoods that housed a garter snake family. They enjoyed sunbathing on top of the bushes, and I suppose they lived somewhere underneath. Being rather shy, they usually zipped away at the slightest sound from us. One of the highlights of Junior's life was when our plump orange tabby cat caught one outside and brought it in, alive, for our viewing pleasure. In a moment of creative panic, I swept the snake back out with a broom, to the great disappointment of boy and cat.
Since we re-landscaped a bit, I have not seen the garter clan as much, but Junior did find one of their sloughed-off skins in the garden this summer. I didn't know about his discovery until I spotted it lovingly arrayed on the back of the living-room couch. At that point I strongly suggested that the yard was a better place for the skin. Out it went.
But here is a herpetological item that I am happy to keep indoors: the book Why Do Snakes Hiss? And Other Questions About Snakes, Lizards, and Turtles. Written by Joan Holub, this beginning reader is full of interesting reptile lore (oooh, spitting cobras, cool) and features some good-looking photographs and illustrations. The Dial Easy-to-Read book is rated a Level 3, for "reading alone, harder words, longer text." The print is still fairly big, and there's enough white space so that the pages don't look at all distracting. Lots of kids enjoy nonfiction more than fiction, and a book like this one has a nice chance of engaging a nature-loving reluctant reader, too. For the younger child, Why Do Snakes Hiss? makes a good read-aloud.
(For some resources for reluctant readers, check out Elizabeth Kennedy's page on the subject at About.com.)