Dr. Jill Sells is the Director of Reach Out and Read Washington State, a statewide effort to help prepare young children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together. She has been a WCAAP member for almost 18 years, and during that time her work has evolved from primary care pediatrics to a focus on engaging doctors as partners in early learning. She served for five years as the Washington Chapter CATCH Facilitator and for three years as the District 8 CATCH Facilitator. In 2007 Dr. Sells and Dr. David Willis from the Oregon Chapter initiated an AAP resolutionâ€”which gained support from the WCAAP and District 8â€”that ultimately changed the AAPâ€™s strategic plan, adding the newest child health priority, Early Brain and Child Development (EBCD). Dr. Sells was recently invited by the AAP to participate with the national Coordinating Body on the implementation of this EBCD Initiative.
Dr. Sellsâ€™ advocacy efforts with the AAP dovetail with her primary work in early childhood. As a young mother in practice, she became increasingly aware of the disconnects between the realities of parenting, pediatric practice, early brain research, and the growing interest of the business community and legislators in early learning. Dr. Sells became involved with early childhood systems efforts at the state level, and helped facilitate a process which led to Washingtonâ€™s early childhood framework called Kids Matter. With support from the Gates Foundation, Dr. Sells led a three-year advocacy effort called Docs For Tots Washington State, aimed at engaging doctors as advocates for early learning. Overlapping this, and in support of the recognition that advocacy for early learning starts within the medical home, Dr. Sells and Mary Ann Woodruff, MD, FAAP, launched Reach Out and Read Washington State. Since that time, Reach Out and Read has grown to 108 programs in 26 counties, serving more than 65,000 Washington children and their families. Dr. Sells and Reach Out and Read are involved in systems and advocacy, continually working to engage doctors and health in early learning policy and programs at the national, state and local levels. In September, Washington state released its first statewide Early Learning Plan which will inform state policy over the next decade. Dr. Sells served as Chair of the Child Health and Development Workgroup, engaging pediatricians and other health leaders in the early learning plan process, and resulting in a plan which includes the Medical Home, Developmental Screening, Health Consultation in Child Care, and Reach Out and Read. The involvement of pediatricians helped assure that the â€˜whole childâ€™ and all those who interact with children and families â€“ including doctors and the medical home- are part of this integrated effort to support young children and families.