I agree that LOTR does surpass Star Wars based on the incredibly intricate background to the Middle-Earth realm... Tolkien put a lot more effort into creating a world than Lucas did, and for that Lucas will always play second fiddle. He's let everyone else have a hand in formulating Star Wars as a "real" place, and that's fine too, but Lucas's effort just wasn't as determined as Tolkien's was... I dont' think Lucas loved his work any less though, but it's just impossible to me to say that Tolkien didn't create something just incredibly more "deep" than Lucas.
I'd disagree that Tolkien isn't on par with the likes of Dickens though... Shakespeare I maybe give more credit, but still I look at Tolkien's work and I think it's easily as thought-out, and it instills better feelings in me personally than any work I read that Dickens wrote. To me those were torture to read for the most part, actually. I can honestly say only a Christmas Carol ever really meant anything to me... We actually were comparing the two and our prof (the school's English Dept. Head) really loathes Dickens so I maybe have some lingering bias after the class discussion.
I think it's great that your kids will read The Hobbit, Scott. I read it in 6th grade actually, then watched the toon... My reading teacher at the time had the class read it, and I was hooked. It was the first book I read that I didn't feel it was a chore to me, as a child.
You'd have been burned at the stake for praising the LOTR movies though... The class I was in bitched about them at every turn. Honestly I thought they helped me visualize Orcs, etc., but from the prof on down, there was a lot of criticism of the films.
Personally, I think the films did the book justice though as well. I think you can't expect the films to really draw things out like the books, and that changes to characters were necessary to keep the story moving. As it stands, ROTK was tough for even avid movie-goers to sit through, what with its multiple endings... I can't fathom the scouring being in there too.