So I just read The Hobbit aloud to Sam. It took us just a little over a week to complete, and he got into it. It absolutely cracked him up when, upon arrival at Lake-Town, Bilbo catches a cold and can only say "Thag you very buch." I mean, he had me read it about 5 times in a row and then he wrote a note to himself "Funny part in The Hobbit on page 183," which I then used as a bookmark, despite the fact that he objected because it was a note, not a bookmark.
The version of the book had several full-color illustrations and it was also BIG and widely space type. Sam likes to follow along as you read, and that helps him pay attention.
As an introduction to J.R.R. Tolkien it was perfect. Sometimes it's surprising just how procedural he gets about certain things, and then the major leaps of imagination, like having hobbit doors be round, are mentioned so quickly that you might miss them. Yet that serves to make the world that much more real. It was clearly real to Tolkien.
Reading it aloud, suddenly the poems and songs are things to look forward to rather than skim (although I was much younger when I first skimmed them!). Also, Tolkien's use of alliteration jumps out at you as you read, and that's something he got from his translations of old English and Norse poetry. I never noticed that before.
Mostly, it's just a well-constructed tale and reaffirms to me why Tolkien is one of my favorite authors. I hope the movie does justice to the book.
Now I have to explain to Sam why we have to wait to read Lord of the Rings. But there's always "Farmer Giles of Ham"!
[Update: here is the review from the next time I read the hobbit in 2012!]