"The Wart did not know what Merlyn was talking about, but he liked him to talk. He did not like the grown-ups who talked down to him, but the ones who went on talking in their usual way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned. He had the glee of the porpoise then, pouring and leaping through strange seas."
~T.H. White in The Once and Future King
Whenever I talk to someone who wants to try the Ambleside curriculum I always try to warn them that the literature selections might seem too lofty for their young ones, but not to surrender too quickly because they might be surprised at their child's ability to comprehend and enjoy the chosen books.
Year 2 (2nd grade) adds Pilgrim's Progress to the list. This is not an abridged, children's version, but the original KJV English version. We first came upon this when Grace was in Year 2, 4 years ago. I thought this was going to very difficult, if not impossible, but I figured if we were going to do this we were going to do it all the way. We took it in small snippets like they suggest, reading only 3-4 pages a sitting and, lo and behold, I was shocked to find that not only did she enjoy it, but she actually retained what we had read, enough to be able to narrate it back to me at the next reading. Reading 3-4 pages at a time is really as much as I can take in myself, since the book is so rich and requires time to chew on and digest it.
It is now our third time through this gem as Naomi is finishing up Year 2, and I believe her comprehension is even better than Grace's because she has had the privilege of listening along to books that were way beyond her supposed grade level since she was born.
My point is, never underestimate the ability of your child to enjoy books that you think may be too far above them. And even if they can't comprehend it all now they will enjoy leaping along in the wake of the words, "jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawn." They will have the glee of the porpoise, pouring and leaping through strange seas.