I just want her to read something!

inside spread from Beastology bookMy niece has three children, all of them super smart, A students and strong readers. The eldest, a girl, and the youngest, a boy, are voracious readers. The middle child, another girl, would rather do anything else. Unlike the often cited reluctant reader, she doesn’t avoid reading because it is difficult or she doesn’t enjoy it, but because there are a myriad other things vying for her attention. The TV, the DS, the Wii, her baby cousin or her grandmother’s dog all do their best to pull her away from the printed word.

Her mother says, “I don’t care what she reads, as long as she reads something!”

So what kind of books can attract a reader who is intellectually able to read, but has a short attention span or is emotionally or temperamentally uninterested in books?

I’m talking about the ‘ology’ and ‘opolis’ books. Young readers can learn about dragons or vampires. Or they can find out how to be a fairy godmother, a princess or a wizard. In other volumes, they learn how to spot fairies or capture mythical beast.

These books have field guides, training manuals, books with notes and tabs and sound. Sort of like a diary of a natural scientist or a mad wizard. Books about the mystical, magical and supernatural bridge a place between picture book and scientific chronicle. They invite the reader to participate and explore in a way other books don’t do.

What makes these books so unique is the stuff glued, flapped, inserted or punched out from the pages. Some have stickers or trading cards. One volume I came across also had sound recordings of the animals it portrayed. (See the opening picture for an inside peek.) Secret codes, web sites to play games on, these volumes are more than mere leaves between their fantastical covers.

Active and distracted children will be able to take in the book in small bites, and because of the format, they can include other interests and activities at the same time. The scientific-like format also encourages investigation into other interests, maybe music or the planets and outer space. Perhaps the Dragonology book can lead to a study of lizards and other reptiles.

As my niece’s plea to me went, at least they’re reading something!


“…the long-lost research of renowned nineteenth century dragonologist Dr. Ernest Drake is presented in all its eccentric glory, happily bridging the gap between dragon legend and fact.The meticulous Dr. Drake assigns Latin names to various dragon species, ruminates on why dragons are able to speak, speculates on how they could fly, and explains the true purpose of their notorious hoarding habits. Here are just a few of DRAGONOLOGY’S fascinating features:

— Novelty item on every spread, including tactile samples of dragon wings, dragon scales, and dragon skin
— Booklet of dragon riddles (indispensable to the burgeoning dragonologist)
— Sealed envelope containing a powerful dragon-calling spell
— Embossed faux leather cover with silver foil, encrusted with three dragon gems…”


“…Follow the fascinating journey of Captain Nemo and explore the ocean’s wonders, both real and imagined … or are they?

What if a sixteen-year-old assistant traveled aboard the storied Nautilus, the narwhal-shaped submarine of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? And what if he were the sole survivor of the ill-fated voyage and went on to relay his adventures to a certain . . . Jules Verne? Find this brave young man’s own account in the lavishly illustrated Oceanology, a tale of an 866 voyage of discovery that investigates diving bells and shipwrecks; coral reefs and ice canyons; sharks, giant octopi, and luminous sea monsters; underwater volcanoes, and even the legendary island of Atlantis…”


Wendy Martin spends her days drawing fantastical worlds. In the evenings she writes about them, then she visits them at night during her dreams.

Wendy Martin
  1. You’re so right. Both of my kids, the reader and the non-reader, enjoy books like these. Now if someone could just publish a hockey-ology book for my son….

    • @Laurie Schneider, I guess you’ll have to write one! It’ll be fun, you can pretend to be some ancient, old archeologist.

  2. i LOVE this post, wendy! my 10 year old wouldn’t read a book if her life depended on it. not until i convinced her to read The Hunger Games trilogy. and now i can’t pry her away from books! but a series like this would have saved us a lot of heart ache when we were searching for books she might enjoy. looks like i’ve got some future gifts planned for her, now!

  3. sorry…I meant being “read” to at night–not red…

  4. Sounds like my three kids! Seriously, my middle child can read just as well as her older sister–but doesn’t want to. I find graphic novels, like the Babymouse and the Amelia Rules series, work really well. They have the volcabulary I want her to exercise, and the pictures give her something else to focus on.

  5. I have one of these readers. He reads above grade level, he enjoys stories, but there are too many other things to do. We put cool info books (like the ology books, or the weird facts sort of book) in the car and he loves to read them whenever we take a drive. he also loves being red TO at night.