Kristen Bell reads every night to daughters Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 3. "It's truly my favorite part of the day," Bell says. "I glance away from the book and see their brains working while we're all cuddled up like meerkats."
But the ladies don't just read, they discuss—especially classic Disney storylines.
"Every time we close Snow White I look at my girls and ask, 'Don't you think it's weird that Snow White didn't ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got that apple?' I say, 'I would never take food from a stranger, would you?' And my kids are like, 'No!' And I'm like, 'Okay, I'm doing something right.'"
The apple question is not the only one that Bell—a Disney Princess herself as the voice of Anna in Frozen—has after reading the tale. "Don't you think that it's weird that the prince kisses Snow White without her permission?" Bell says she has asked her daughters. "Because you can not kiss someone if they're sleeping!"
Bell herself is working on a children's book, and the process has made her appreciate how far children's literature has come. "There's a book called Grumpy Monkey that we love that allows the monkey to be grumpy, even at the end. Other characters give him solutions but he decides he's still grumpy," Bell explains. "I've had that feeling, and I want my girls to know that you're allowed to feel it. Figure out ways to pick yourself up when you are ready. I really like that message."
Reading gets Bell jazzed, both sharing books the traditional way and projecting books on a wall using the Moonlite device and a smartphone. "My oldest is learning to read in Kindergarten, so she's pointing out letters. It makes me excited," Bell says. "I look at my child's brain like a hungry stomach. I have to feed it every day. Even if I'm rushed, I have to feed their brain just like I feed their belly."
Bell has old books from her childhood, courtesy of her mom, and says those are often outdated. ("There's a fear-based toddler-teaching book with Mr. Fox getting hit by a car, his head bleeding and Xs on his eyes. I'm like, 'Mom, you read this to me?' God bless the 80s, I don't know how we got through.") More current favorites include Uni the Unicorn and We're All Wonders.
[See Parents' list of the Best Children's Books of 2018]
When she and the girls are done with books, they donate them to Baby2Baby. "There's a bin outside my child's preschool and nearly every time I drop her off, I put something in there: shoes, jeans she just outgrew, books. Baby2Baby takes them to a giant warehouse, cleans and separates everything, and invites parents and caregivers to 'shop' for free. It's kind of a perfect system."
Bell will return as Veronica Mars on Hulu this Summer.