Pilgrims Progress For Kids
by Guest Writer
Published on August 14, 2023

Pilgrims Progress for Kids

By Chris Pennington

Note: This article was first published in Growing Fathers in May 2023.

The Pilgrim’s Progress has been a devotional staple since it was first published in 1768. Its author, John Bunyan, was an English non-conformist pastor who suffered many years in prison for continuing to preach without the government’s approval. During his imprisonment in Bedford, in fact, he wrote most of Pilgrim’s Progress.

The allegorical story traces the store of a young boy named Christian as he travels from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. The allegory is not subtle, but this allows Bunyan to teach more openly throughout the story and provide detailed pastoral insight.

The story became an instant success, selling as many as 100,000 copies in the first fifteen years and quickly gaining recognition in nearly every Christian home in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Adapted for Kids

The Little Pilgrim’s Progress is a beautifully-illustrated version adapted for kids. My kids loved at least three things about this edition:

1. Adapted Characters

Joe Sutphin adapts Helen Taylor’s classic retelling of the story for children by turning all the characters into animals. Christian is a rabbit, but he interacts with moles, owls, bears, and more throughout his journey.

2. Beautiful Illustrations

The illustrations are extremely well-done and detailed. I often find my children flipping through the book because they love all the pictures. My kids will recount each section of the story on the pictures alone and benefit from the story even without me reading. Here’s a preview of the book so you can see the illustrations.

3. Applications to Life

Because the story is such a thinly-veiled allegory, the lessons are apparent and easy to grasp. When Christian faces the troubles of the Giant Despair in Doubting Castle, it’s transparent enough for my three-year-old to understand he has to fight fear, doubt, and sadness. These ready applications come up all throughout the day as we parent our kids.

Basic Details

If you’re interested in reading this with your kids, let me share a few details that may help you.

    • Reading Length: You can read a chapter in about 4–5 minutes if you take your time. We would read one chapter a day on average.
    • Book Length: The book is 320 pages and took us the better part of 6 months to read through together. It’s broken into two parts, Christian’s journey (the original Pilgrim’s Progress) and Christiana’s journey (Bunyan’s sequel).
    • Grade level: Our kids were 3–7 when we read this book, but somewhere between K5–6th grade would benefit from and enjoy it.

Other Thoughts

Bunyan is deeply pastoral in his writing, and this adaptation captures much of that spirit. If you’ve never read this classic, it will benefit you immensely as well.

While I occasionally substituted easier words or switched out Britishisms (e.g., “soon” for “presently”), the language mostly connected with my kids immediately.

The adaptation especially highlights The King and his goodness throughout the story and focuses on enjoying and delighting in him over merely experiencing his benefits. It led to fruitful conversations with my kids about the kindness and goodness of God in Christ towards us.

I trust you’ll pick up a copy and find it a great help!

Chris PenningtonChris is a member of the Growing Fathers Team and also serves as a part-time associate pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Liberty, Utah. He and his wife, Megan, have three young children—Ella, Nora, and Jude.

Feature Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash 

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