By Carla Zanoni
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Elvin Freytes had a vision eight years ago of a child turning to him and whispering the word "MaJenDome."
It took eight years for the Washington Heights man to figure out what the word in his dream was. Now, it's the name of a movement he hopes will change the world.
Freytes, 35, has adopted the word for his group that encourages expectant fathers to read to their babies in utero.
"I hope to increase family bonding, the level of father involvement during pregnancy and in their children's lives," he said, citing studies that have shown a "father's positive influence can dramatically increase the child's moral, ethical and altruistic development."
Freytes said he hopes the act will help to create a better world through higher levels of literacy, thus decreasing disease, poverty, hunger and homelessness.
Freytes said he grew up with only two books in his own home — a Bible and a phone book — and a father who "was never really around."
"Throughout my life I noticed that whenever I met someone with high intellect, the story was almost always the same — their parents read to them," Freytes said, adding that he believes the simple act of reading can increase family happiness, which in turn will churn out children who create positive change.
Since its start in December, three expectant fathers have signed up to begin reading to their babies and said they describe the experience as not only a bonding one with the baby, but also with the expectant mother.
Expectant father Troy Payne, 30, signed up for the initiative when he learned about it through Freytes. He and his wife are expecting their third child on Feb. 28 and have been reading to his wife's uterus since the end of last year.
He said the reading seems to engage the unborn child and calm it down, which in turn has also made the last days of his wife's pregnancy easier on her.
"It's changed my life," he said. "If I had know what I know now, I would have read to the other two."
Recently married in September, Freytes is not yet a father, but said he hopes to be someday.
Today, Freytes, who has worked at New York Academy of Art as the Director of Student Affairs for more than four years, is working on a book called "Hello my little one, it’s me your father" to highlight the effort and has asked friends and supporters to submit potential illustrations for the books.
Those interested in being considered for the book can send ideas to MaJenDome@gmail.com.
"I think the ultimate goal is to have all countries recognize and initiate World MaJenDome Day activities across the globe to help all expectant fathers understand why reading to the womb could potentially change the world," he said.