Ruth P. Graves, the president emerita of the nonprofit children’s literacy organization Reading is Fundamental, died Sept. 10 at her home in Annandale. She was 78.

The cause was cancer, said her son, Chris Graves.

Mrs. Graves joined the staff of Reading is Fundamental (RIF) in 1975, serving as executive director and then national president of the organization, which was founded by Margaret McNamara, the wife of former defense secretary Robert S. McNamara. Under Mrs. Graves’s leadership, RIF grew to serve 2.7 million children with a volunteer staff of 200,000. In 1997, Mrs. Graves retired with the title of president emerita.

Ersilee Ruth Parker was born in Port Arthur, Tex. She graduated from Baylor University in 1956 and later received a master’s degree in history at the University of Texas at Austin.

In 1961 she came to the Washington area to serve on the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. Later she held a variety of teaching jobs and government jobs, including directing the antipoverty program for migrant and seasonal workers at the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity.

Survivors include her husband of 55 years, Glenn Graves of Annandale; a son, Chris Graves of Montgomery Village; and two grandchildren.

— Bart Barnes