When I was a kid, I read. I spent a great deal of my free time reading (and probably some that wasn’t considered “free” by the adults around me — time when my mom wanted me to be doing chores, or even time when I was expected to be paying attention in class.)
I was teased by my family about how much I read, but I was targeted (bullied) in school and rarely had friends. Books provided escape, another life, a type of freedom that I did not have of know how to create in myself at that time. Sure there was pleasure in reading, but more importantly there was escape. It was a way out of the unpleasant social world that I inhabited. At that point, I would never have questioned whether it was useful to me to read so much.
Now, as an adult I have a mixed relationship with reading, at least with reading fiction. I certainly love books and bookstores. I have a weakness for purchasing books, although I’m much more likely to buy non-fiction works — I don’t often buy novels. I enjoy really good, solid novels, however, I read a lot of crap (mostly detective novel type stuff). I do this when I am stressed and tired. It’s easy, unchallenging reading and it seems like a good idea at the time. when I am in the stressful situation, I actually crave it, and I believe that I just “need a break.” But then I usually read longer than I intended to, and it can suck up time from activities that have more chance of improving my emotional status in a more lasting way. It is such a long-established coping mechanism, however, that I sometimes don’t even question it.