Here's what much of my afternoon looked like --
Wrapped in the afghan that Hubby's grandma made, reading "Return of the King".
This trilogy really doesn't need me to endorse it, most know that it is worth the read. And these aren't books that can be read through half thinking about other things. They require thought and effort of the reader. These books will be a challenge to most Americans, as they are written at a High School (or so) level. "The Hobbit" is more written at a Jr. High type level, and the "Silmarillian" is at a college level. So, don't expect to breeze through this trilogy quickly.
I certainly enjoyed the books, and have 2 observations to present about them.
First, the title is deceptive. The story isn't about the ring, its about the hobbits. Yes, the ring is what prompts the adventures, but the story is about the hobbits and their adventures, of which the ring is a part of, but is not the center of. The movies make the books out to be about the ring, and its story arc, which is why the scouring of the Shire is left out of the movies. "Its anti-climatic", says one. Well, sure, if the story was about the ring, its is. But the hobbits haven't reached the climax of their story arc. They don't come into their own until they return and rescue the Shire from those who have sought to destroy it (which the primary individual seeking to destroy the shire does so because of the hobbits and their involvement in his downfall).
Second, I found it interesting at my own reaction to the story. I enjoyed the books, but my heart leapt as I read about Sam replanting the trees in the Shire. And each time Sam thinks about his garden and planting things, my emotions are drawn in. Upon finishing the book, I started working my own spring garden plans.
About reading out loud -- I think reading out loud is a wonderful thing and is particularly great for children. I think it is especially helpful to read something (out loud) that is just beyond the child's reading level. Listening to the story makes it more accessible and introduces them to vocabulary and writing styles that they might not have encountered before. These are excellent books to do this with, keeping in mind that the fight with Shelob (in the 2nd & 3rd boook) is particularly gruesome and could be very scary. She is a giant spider after all and the passages are rather detailed in now nasty she is. Otherwise, I think the stories could be appropriate for most children starting about ages 6 to 8 (for reading out loud and, perhaps, not right before bed). I'm thinking about this a lot these days, and I can't wait for Peanut to be ready for me to read chapter books out loud to him.