It's that simple. Bedtime is best for obvious reasons (ie they are at least partially restrained and should be running out of some energy by then). The idea is to start when they are young. Too young to be talking, but old enough to be looking at colors, shapes, pictures and feeling textures. the general sequence of books that you seem to go through is:
- The thick-page-hard-card baby book with pastels or vibrant colors. The edges get worn before you are allowed to shelve these. Dad U could recite* all of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" for public toddler-boredom-emergencies. I used to delay, draw out and over exclaim that he had become a.....v e r y.....F A T.....c a t e r p i l l a r..... Which always induced giggling fits from Jr. Great for bed time, but probably counterproductive in a department store....
- Pop-up books for the ~1 yr olds and up. Typically you find these in your new favorite store (ie book store) and can't help buy them for Jr, despite all the warnings that they are not suitable for someone so young. Jr loves them. That's the problem. His/her little fingers attempt to grab any moving part and the book is soon devoid of movement. Even if you are very deliberate about keeping their hands off, that one day when the book is left within reach will spell doom for several pages worth of folding mechanisms before you can react. Our kids loved Maisy Mouse books so much that a second set was bought so we had a designated "hands on" and "hands off" collection.
- The mountain of books you go through when teaching kids to read for themselves (early readers, advanced readers, readers with pictures to con the kids into thinking its still a picture book etc etc). My wife and I (lets face it, she did most of the work) made the most satisfying progress with our kids using this "100 lessons" book.
But over the course of time Dad U moved from "every night" reader to "special projects" guy. A couple of summers back I tackled The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings with my boys (then ~8 and 10). As the Summer dragged on into early Winter, we missed curfew numerous times, and I started to go hoarse, but it was a great time with my guys. We have since covered The Simarillion and Lost Tales. [by the way you are relying on the Hollywood version of the story you need to go to the source. Long but enjoyable. The Moria chapters will always be my favorites. And Glorfindel in particular gets short shrift in the movies]
But as I look back, I realize that perhaps it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. My oldest is now 12, has read The Iliad for school, and is getting his own LOTR box set for his birthday (Ed: Shhhhh!). If he wants to read it again, he won't have to wait for me. I'm just going to have to find a bigger book.
-DUGR #4: READ TO YOUR KIDS
*Full disclosure: I could never quite get the sequence right for the day he munched the watermelon, chocolate cake and 8 other assorted food items.