How we got to reading Pilgrims Progress, the original, by Bunyan. (Another book that we are now able to read, and that it took us long to get familiar with, was Parables from Nature. Both books can be found free in the Public Domain.)
Last year we attempted this read. It did not work well. The language twisted my tongues, the girls got lost and did not like narrating after listening to the assigned portion read by me. Children can listen to books like this, it only takes a bit of knowing how to prep the way, and how to do it, it will surprise you how they understand so much from the Bible, from literature that is considered “too hard”, poetry… If you just become familiar with the book yourself, offer it in small portions, consistently, daily, abundantly, and require only this, a narration or retelling, in different ways but without questioning or correcting, just their response, every day, every reading, it starts to work. Their minds start churning, they make connections, they discuss ideas, they retell you with parts and portions you did not even remember, they will come up with comments that will drop your jaw.
We tried Little Pilgrims. I read some, they got a bit more of the characters, but they still remembered the first bad experience, they did not like it, and it was a chore. I did not like Little Pilgrims a lot either, and it has the plot, but it lacks the richness (and difficulty, yes), of the original.
I got a curious very abridged Spanish version, with nice comic style illustrations, and short but rich text. It was enjoyed by me more than the girls, but I read some.
This year, my oldest said she wanted me to read Pilgrims Progress, because it is a book about christianity and she was interested in it for that reason. Thanks to the familiarity with the beginning chapters and their characters, my tongue did not get tangled, I could read it with emphasis, and we understood it. Key. This year we read a bit until we get tired. It is hefty and dense, you cannot read away as with any other book you want to know more about the plot. Same with Parables from Nature, it is getting easier and highly rewarding. But we had to leave the more rigid schedule I would have loved to follow, and take it in smaller bits. Quantity here is not the point, for some of these difficult books, we need to ponder a bit and be humble and honest and do the effort ourselves first.
But I have to say that we have some biblical disagreements with Bunyan. But knowing where you stand, or knowing where the Bible stands and where he slips some interpretation, it is still a most fascinating read. Many concepts personified in the characters, and the narrative of his dream, are cleverly devised and written. It makes you reflect and meditate. I can see why it was such an important book and quite a great read for many generations, specially those preoccupied with the spiritual. It can and it will challenge and enhance your Bible reading and your beliefs.
I am glad to live in the States and to be able to read books like this as part of our education. What a blessing not to have to have a politically correct (thus sterile) curriculum.