Reading LOTR to Kids

This morning I received the following question from Laura:

I see that you have Lord of the Rings as one of your featured books. Our son (just turned 7) is dying to have me read it to him, but I haven’t read it myself in decades and don’t recall how easy it is to understand. I know your kids are about the same age as ours so I wondered if you’ve given it a shot with them. Any insight would be great. Thanks!

My answer:

Hello Laura! Your question arrives at the perfect time. We are reading LOTR at the dinner table each evening. We just finished book 1 (of 6) in this beautiful edition. The younger kids need 15–20 extra minutes to finish eating so we’ve filled the time with Tolkien and a calorie-free helping of adventurous prose dessert. But LOTR has also proven to be a challenge and especially for the youngest two (and for me the reader!). The names and locations and language can get tangled and complicated and reading them verbally is an exercise in tongue-twisting acrobatics. Although we are going to press on, my regret now is that I did not begin with The Hobbit. If I had given it more thought that is where I would have started. The Hobbit is much less complicated, it is shorter in general, and I think it would have been a better entry door into Middle Earth for our younger two kids. I hope my regret can be your guide. Blessings in Christ! Tony

I know a number of you blog readers have read Tolkien to your little hobbits. Please share your experience with us in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Reading LOTR to Kids

  1. Well, here’s the approach we are taking…

    I have two boys – one just turned 10, the other about to turn 8. We are reading the hobbit together this summer. I got each of them their own illustrated copy for cheap (bought used and in good condition online), and I also got the unabridged audiobook narrated by Rob Inglis here:

    This guy does a simply AMAZING job reading Tolkien. He has a wise old story-telling voice, and reads different characters in different voices. We just watched all three extended versions of the Lord of the Rings movies in their one-night only showings these last three Tuesdays and are ready to start reading together. My thought is to listen to the CD and read the story together a chapter at a time and then talk about what is going on before we go to bed.

    By the way – if you spend a lot of time driving, buy the Lord of Rings unabridged audiobook also narrated by Rob Inglis. It is phenomenal. I wasn’t sure if I would like listening to it or not, but it is incredibly good and by the time I was done listening to the first chapter I decided that was really the way it was meant to be enjoyed. LotR is storytelling at its finest!

    Blessings to you and your family as you adventure together!

    ~ Paul

  2. Thanks Tony! I didn’t expect to get an actual post =). Starting with the Hobbit is an excellent idea. I’ve been a little tongue-tied myself with some of the language in the Narnia series we’ve been reading lately, so a gentler introduction for this mama might be helpful too. I also love Paul’s idea of an audio book for our next long car ride.

  3. Laura (and Tony and everyone else) – if you guys are looking for some good audio books for your kids to listen to on long car rides (I’m a big proponent of this!) — they are having a grand sale over at They have most of their audiobooks on sale for $7.98 right now, which is less than the printed copy for many of them. They run this sale twice a year, and I’ve purchased several great titles there, from Pilgrim’s Progress to Spurgeon’s lengthy Autobiography, and from the Religious Affections to Radio Theater productions (which sadly they don’t seem to carry any more).

    Hope it’s a blessing to you!


  4. As someone who is getting back into reading books again after not having really read much in the last 20 years, I have found out that there is a LOT out there besides the Louis L’amour westerns, Hardy Boys, and Sugar Creek Gang books that I was allowed as a kid. I’ve recently read the Hobbit and LOTR for the first time and also just saw the movies a few months ago.

    My kids are 5 and 6 and I am wondering if that is too young to start yet with reading the Hobbit. Has your son who is 7 seen the LOTR movies yet? My son (6) has watched the Narnia movies, but the LOTR is a bit more graphic.

    I guess I’m just looking for guidance on what age to start introducing certain types of books/movies to my kids. I know all kids are different, so this may be an impossible question to answer.

  5. When I was very young, my father read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to us. I don’t know that I understood everything that was going on, but I remember enjoying it. I think I probably heard it more than once (and later read it on my own several times). I don’t how well it seemed to work at the time, but I love LotR as an adult and recall my dad reading it to us with fondness.

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