DECATUR – When John Schirle was in college at a Christian university and it was time to work at church camp or vacation Bible school, he found himself in a dilemma.

“All my classmates could sing,” said Schirle, a library assistant in the children's department at Decatur Public Library. “I can't sing a lick, but I can tell stories.”

He memorized a Dr. Seuss story, “The Star-Bellied Sneetches” and acted it out, and later, added “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to his repertoire. On Wednesday, as part of the library's Christmas events, he performed the Grinch, from memory, for a packed house.

“If you woke me up in the middle of the night, I could do (the Grinch),” Schirle said. “Maybe not with as much enthusiasm as I just did.”

The program included performances by the Millikin University Children's Choirs – Dolce, which is kindergarten through second grade; Cantabile, third, fourth and fifth grade; and the Concert Youth Chorale, sixth through 12th grade. The choir program is directed by Christine Smith, with able assistance from several Millikin students studying music, and Smith appreciate's Schirle's abilities, too.

“You're going to hear the Grinch from the best storyteller in Decatur,” she told children sitting on the floor.

Downtown Decatur's Christmas Walk was also on Wednesday night, and Schirle said the date of the event was chosen to coordinate with the walk and with the availability of the Millikin choir.

“We wanted to have a nice event where kids and their families could spend time together and maybe read a book together,” he said. “We want to bring new people in to the library.”

Rachel Miller, one of the young singers in the Cantabile group, said the story was “awesome,” and she enjoyed singing for the event, too.

“They teach us how to sing without showing we're nervous,” said Rachel, 9, who has been in Millikin choirs since last year. She was only a little nervous, she said, because she's been performing a lot lately.

After the songs and the story, Santa Claus arrived to listen to Christmas wishes and pose for pictures, and Micah Sutton, 3, had a prepared list of those wishes to give to the jolly old elf, who did ask if Micah had been a good boy. Micah said he had been.

“He loves to come to the library,” said his great-grandmother, Cynthia Phillips, who visits the library with him regularly. It's a good way to have an outing with just the two of them that doesn't cost anything, she said, and it's instilling a love of books and stories in Micah that's important to her.


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