Most of that was women's literature. As for children's? My biggest gripe about the genre was first, the errors. I actually grew up being taught in the Journeys Through the Bible and the like workbooks that Jacob married Leah after seven years of work, and then worked another seven years before he married Rachel. I heard more times than I can count that Bathsheba was bathing on the rooftop. I was given pictures to color that had the wise men showing up at the stable. And we won't even start with the cultural errors that showed not only in the pictures, but also the wording and assumptions.
Second, the workbooks were all too easy. You could have given the fifth grade books to second graders and the high school books to sixth graders. Do you want to know why so many of our children are bored with church? Because we are the ones boring them to death!
But that is not the point I want to make this morning. We will never find perfect Bible class literature for our children. With so many different styles of learners out there, and so many different needs in different cultures/neighborhoods, it is impossible. When people start complaining, I worry that what we have is uncreative teachers with little insight into what their students actually need. So how do we go about choosing good literature? Here are a few guidelines.
1. Carefully assess the needs of your group. And folks, that means look at the parents. The attitudes your students have come directly from their raising. If the parents are good Bible students, usually their own children will arrive with a completed workbook and answers to all your questions. If not, then you must steel yourself to go over the story in class, again and again, to get it across. If the parents are all about the facts but not about the heart, you will need to stress godly attitudes. If the parents are all about emotionalism and "God knows my heart" is supposed to excuse any misapplication of scripture, then you need to stress God's attitude to the disobedient. It may take a couple of quarters to figure all this out, but if you do not, you won't ever accomplish much that truly needs accomplishing.
2. Now that you know the needs, begin to look over the various curricula carefully in order to determine their strengths and weaknesses. It should be obvious that you need to be knowledgeable in the scriptures in order to do this. If you see that ubiquitous little boat picture of the ark with half a dozen windows and doors, and the giraffe's head sticking out of it because it's shorter than a giraffe and do not immediately see red flags, please go study Genesis again. As I said, you will not find one that's perfect, but egregious errors should be obvious to you. Then choose the one that fills the needs (#1) with the least amount of error.
3. Do not approach the curriculum you have chosen as the be-all and end-all. Instead, use it as a guide. Adapt and re-adapt as you see the need arise. One of my published classbooks has a statement pointing out that I have given the teacher too many scriptures to use on a particular point. I expect the teacher to go over those passages and choose what is relevant to her group. To my mind, that is the way to use Bible class literature. Adapt, adapt, adapt.
4. Feel free to add your own methods to the book. I do not teach like you and you do not teach like I. I have certain ways I teach memory verses and people, places, and things facts. And students do not relate to each method in the same way. My methods tend to cater to active children, helping them harness that energy in productive ways. Yours may reach a different type of child. Anyone who thinks there is only one correct way to teach a Bible narrative probably ought not be a teacher in the first place.
5. No matter what curriculum you have chosen, no matter how many times you have taught that lesson over the years, pretend you have never seen it before, and read it out of the Bible half a dozen times before you ever read it out of the workbook. The first classbook I ever wrote came as a result of me doing exactly that. I could not believe the number of errors I was taught nor the wrong ideas that had been placed in my mind by teachers who simply went over the classbook and never opened a Bible because they thought they "knew the story."
In the middle school class I taught for years, the kids had two favorite activities. One was, "How many mistakes can you find in the book?" They were to read the Bible first and then the classbook and look for them. It was the first order of business in every class. Besides becoming completely familiar with the lesson, it also taught them a pretty good principle about manmade material. The second was, "I'm going to teach you something most grownups don't know." Talk about hearing a pin drop. I had their attention in a flash, and most parents learned those things, too, when their children went home that day.
However, you choose your material, stop looking for perfection. You won't find it. Instead, look for guides. Try to find ways to help embed these truths into our children so that nowhere along the line someone will write of them: "And there arose a generation who knew not God."