This week is the eightieth anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit and so I’ll add my two cents to the celebrations.
I can still recite the opening several sentences of the novel from memory (‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat; it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.’).
My mother read it to me when I was child (perhaps seven?) at the rate of approximately one chapter a night. As soon as she was done, I immediately read it over again myself. I devoured everything available by Tolkien (though not always understanding it until later).
Does The Hobbit need defense anymore against his more serious books? Maybe, yes, no. I am currently reading The Children of Hurin, which is part and parcel of his world building works, like The Silmarillion (the ancient, mythical Middle Earth from which the ‘contemporary’ Middle Earth of Bilbo and Frodo is an Adamic sort of post). I am most likely to reread from The Lord of the Rings.
But I will read The Hobbit to my children.