If you're on Twitter, you may have noticed #whyIread trending today. Folks are tweeting all kinds of awesome answers, and though I posted my own, I thought I'd expand on it a bit in a blog post.
I'm not sure how old I was when I learned to read - my mother says I was 4, but of course I can't remember it. Reading and writing have always been inextricably linked in my mind, and the first story I wrote at age 6 - a twelve-page "novel" featuring an orphan who lived in the wilderness with a herd of wild horses - bore some strong similarities to Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, my favorite at the time. When I moved on to the Redwall books in 4th grade, I began a sprawling animal war story epic that topped out at 90,000 words.
Like many creative inwardly-focused kids out there, I was not highly social during my K-12 years. Books were more reliable friends, especially when I was very young; I carried a book out to recess every day starting in second grade. I've always been a fast reader, and as a result I re-read favorite books until I know them practically by heart. When my family took a three-month trip to France, I was a ten-year-old who spoke mainly English. I did befriend some local kids, but I also worked my way through the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, secondhand paperback copies that are now so tattered that the bindings no longer hold.
I read widely, but my favorites as a kid were always fantasy or adventure novels. Half Magic, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Tamora Pierce, Philip Pullman - I'll never forget the day I finished reading The Amber Spyglass. It had so captured me that I spent the next two hours wandering the house in a daze, my mind still with Lyra and Will. That daze - that feeling that perhaps the world of the book is more real than the world I'm in, even for a few hours - is why I read.